Probe on floor leader draws DUP ire

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Probe on floor leader draws DUP ire

The Democratic United Party threatened yesterday to impeach the justice minister and the prosecutor general over a graft investigation involving its floor leader, calling the probe a witch-hunt against the largest opposition party in the crucial months leading up to the December presidential election.

Representative Park Jie-won, floor leader of the DUP, was a no-show for the scheduled questioning at 10 a.m. at the prosecution yesterday. Prosecutors have accused him of receiving bribes from two ailing savings banks.

DUP leaders yesterday condemned the prosecution for continuing what they called political oppression against the opposition party.

Comparing the latest case against its floor leader with earlier probes into the party’s former chairwoman, Han Myung-sook, and the late President Roh Moo-hyun, DUP spokesman Park Yong-jin said prosecutors were trying the floor leader in a media circus.

At the DUP leaders’ meeting, Representative Lee Chun-seok also raised suspicions of prosecution’s timing in its attempt to question Park.

“It’s a copycat of what happened to Han,” Lee said. “It was six months before the local elections, and now it’s six months before the presidential election.

“We all know very well what happened to Han. The prosecution exercised the arrest warrant and indicted her, but she was acquitted.

“What the prosecution wants now is not the truth. They just want a photo of the opposition party’s floor leader appearing at the prosecution to be published.”

Lee said DUP lawmakers on the National Assembly’s Legislative and Judiciary Committee are holding a legal review to fire Justice Minister Kwon Jae-jin and Prosecutor General Han Sang-dae for “having used their powers not to serve the people but to serve the administration.”

Representative Lee also said the DUP is issuing ultimatums to Kwon and Han to step down voluntarily if they don’t want to be impeached.

Submitting a motion to impeach a senior government official such as a minister or a prosecutor general requires the support of more than one-third of the Assembly’s seated lawmakers. Approval requires a majority vote.

In the 300-seat National Assembly, the DUP has 127 lawmakers.

As Park refused to show up for questioning, the prosecution is contemplating its next move. Sources at the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office told the JoongAng Ilbo that they will send another notice to summon Park.

If he continues to resist, the prosecution will make attempts to forcibly investigate him, including a plan to seek a warrant to take him into custody.

Law enforcement authorities are required to obtain the legislature’s approval to arrest a lawmaker while the legislature is in session. The current session ends on Aug. 3.

The ruling Saenuri Party, which faced criticism for having protected its lawmaker from the prosecutors’ detention over a separate graft investigation, pressured Park to cooperate with the probe.

By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr ]

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