DUP’s Park hangs on in Assembly

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DUP’s Park hangs on in Assembly

The Saenuri Party asked the National Assembly speaker to remove the opposition Democratic United Party’s floor leader from the legislature’s Legislative and Judiciary Committee, criticizing Representative Park Jie-won for using his position to influence an investigation against him.

Led by Representative Kweon Seong-dong, the ruling Saenuri Party’s members on the committee asked National Assembly Speaker Kang Chang-hee yesterday morning to use his power to remove Park from the committee based on his remarks made during a committee meeting Tuesday.

“Park interfered in the prosecution’s investigation by pressuring the justice minister during the committee meeting,” Kweon told Kang. “That has gone over the line as a legislator. Pressuring the law enforcement authority about an investigation against him is an abuse of his power as a lawmaker and an insult to the people.”

Speaker Kang turned down the request, saying it would only be possible if Park’s Democratic United Party made the request.

Park is being investigated by prosecutors in a bribery case and is refusing their summons to be questioned. Under the law, prosecutors cannot arrest Park, a lawmaker, as long as the National Assembly is in session unless other lawmakers vote to approve such an arrest.

The ruling party had a similar situation earlier this month when one of its representatives was saved from an arrest by prosecutors by an Assembly vote shielding him. That vote backfired on the Saenuri Party and was intensely unpopular with the public. The ruling party is hoping the opposition will face the same kind of opprobrium in the ongoing Park brouhaha.

The prosecution yesterday sent a third notice to Park, asking him to appear for questioning tomorrow morning. If Park resists again, the prosecution will seek an arrest warrant.

Earlier in the morning, Saenuri lawmakers also held a press conference and pressed Park to recuse himself from the committee until the prosecution completes its probe.

During a Legislative and Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, Park complained to Justice Minister Kwon Jae-jin about the probe against him.

“The prosecution is using psychological torture to obtain testimony,” Park told Kwon at the meeting.

The Democrats also beefed up their protection of Park by proposing to hold a legislative session in August without taking a recess.

An arrest of a lawmaker requires the National Assembly’s approval during a legislative session, and the ruling Saenuri Party wants the Assembly to take a break so prosecutors can arrest Park.

The opposition seems determined to keep the Assembly going. Its July session is supposed to end Aug. 3.

On Tuesday, Chairman Lee Hae-chan of the DUP said the August session should open on Aug. 4, the day after the July session ends. Lee said the legislature has so many issues to handle it should remain open.

If the legislature holds another session in August without a recess, Park would remain immune from an arrest until the end of this year, as the National Assembly’s 100-day regular session starts in September.

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

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