Parties sharpen knives over DUP lawmaker arrest

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Parties sharpen knives over DUP lawmaker arrest

A showdown looms in the National Assembly as major political parties are preparing for battle next week over the arrest of a political heavyweight of the opposition Democratic United Party.

For the third time, Representative Park Jie-won, the floor leader of the DUP, rejected yesterday the prosecution’s request to show up for questioning.

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As they already warned, the prosecutors yesterday began preparations to apply for a warrant to take him into custody for questioning about graft allegations.

The prosecutors want to question Park based on testimony from executives of two savings banks that they gave bribes to the 70-year-old political powerhouse in return for his influence. Park, however, refused to cooperate with the prosecution’s probe, calling it a political attack on him and the opposition party before the December presidential election.

A joint investigation team on the savings bank scandal at the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office is expected to ask the Seoul Central District Court before the end of this month to issue a warrant to arrest Park.

After the prosecution applies for a warrant, the court will send a request to the National Assembly for its approval.

Law enforcement authorities must obtain the legislature’s authorization to take a lawmaker into custody during a legislative session.

Once the arrest motion is introduced to the National Assembly, lawmakers will have 24 hours to review it. Voting must take place within 72 hours of its submission.

The current session is scheduled to end Friday, and two legislative sessions are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. Expectations are high that the motion will be introduced on Wednesday and the voting will take place on Thursday. The ruling Saenuri Party decided to use its majority to approve the motion to grant Park’s arrest once it is put to a vote next week.

The largest party in the legislature has already faced serious repercussions after a similar motion to allow the detention of one of its lawmakers, Representative Chung Doo-un, was voted down earlier this month.

Because Park is the floor leader of the main opposition party, the Saenuri Party will not adopt an official position to support his arrest. The party will hold a meeting of its lawmakers to ask for their cooperation.

To allow the arrest of a lawmaker, more than half of the Assembly members must attend the voting and more than half of them must approve it. In the 300-member legislature, the Saenuri Party occupies 149 seats, while the main opposition DUP has 128 lawmakers. The Unified Progressive Party, which has an alliance with the DUP, has 13 lawmakers, while the conservative minority Forward Unification Party has five lawmakers.

The DUP became alarmed as the prospect of Park’s arrest improved. It continued to argue that the next Assembly session should open on Aug. 4 without a recess, a move criticized by the Saenuri Party as a plan to protect Park. The DUP made it clear it will protect Park from the prosecution’s arrest at all costs.

“If the motion is introduced, we will do everything to stop it,” Representative Park Ki-choon, deputy floor leader of the DUP, said, “whether we have to vote it down or block it physically.”

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

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