Saenuri accuses DUP of abusing political system

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Saenuri accuses DUP of abusing political system

Taken aback by Representative Park Jie-won’s surprise appearance at the prosecution, the ruling Saenuri Party yesterday braced itself for a second round of battles to try to stop the Democratic United Party from using a legislative session to protect its floor leader.

Hours after the prosecution asked the National Assembly to allow the arrest of Park, the floor leader of the largest opposition DUP turned himself in to face questioning over graft allegations on Tuesday.

On the same day, the DUP submitted a request to the National Assembly to hold an extraordinary session in August. Under the law governing the legislature, an extraordinary session can open at the request of one quarter of the lawmakers or the president.

With the DUP’s request, the legislature will begin another session on Saturday, immediately after the July session ends on Friday.

The Saenuri Party yesterday condemned the DUP for trying to abuse the system to protect Park. Lawmakers have immunity from arrest during a legislative session.

“The DUP made a sly move and sent the request for the August session on the day of Park’s appearance before the prosecution,” Representative Kim Gi-hyen, deputy floor leader of the Saenuri Party, told MBC Radio. “If the DUP withdraws its request so that the August session will open after a recess, we won’t oppose it. The session should begin in mid-August.”

The DUP sneered at the Saenuri Party’s demand.

“We want to put an end to this problem and will devote our energy in the legislative session to handle pending issues,” DUP Chairman Lee Hae-chan said at the assembly of the party lawmakers.

He also criticized the prosecution for hinting at summoning Park for another round of questioning.

“I think they haven’t learned their lesson yet,” Lee said. “The political prosecution violated the separation of power, and it must apologize for its wrongful past investigation practices and vow not to repeat them again.”

Representative Woo Won-shik, a DUP spokesman, also criticized the Saenuri Party for disagreeing with the schedule of the August session. He said the ruling party was trying to protect the Lee Myung-bak administration from corruption scandals, which will be investigated by an independent counsel.

Even with the August session, the legislature doesn’t have enough time to handle urgent issues such as the government spending review and the confirmation hearings of three Constitutional Court justices, he said.

The prosecution said yesterday that it has asked the Seoul Central District Court to scrap its request to issue an arrest warrant for Park. The joint investigation team at the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office on the savings bank scandal, which questioned Park on Tuesday, took a step to withdraw the request.

“The National Assembly also asked us to scrap the warrant request,” said a prosecution source. “Since we questioned him yesterday, there is no urgent need to hold him for 48 hours for investigation.”

The source, however, said the probe will continue to look into the graft allegations involving Park. He was accused of receiving a total of 80 million won ($70,765) from two savings banks.

After 10 hours of grilling, Park left the prosecution early yesterday morning. “I have explained myself about the groundless charges,” Park told reporters. “I think the prosecutors have understood me well.”

Although Park said the prosecution hasn’t asked him to show up for another round of questioning, a prosecution source said Park will be summoned again as early as next week.

“Park made an extremely smart decision,” a senior DUP official told the JoongAng Ilbo.

After the August session, the Assembly will have a 100-day regular session from September to November, and the possibility will lessen for Park to face a political crisis over his arrest.

He also managed to protect himself from physical detention because his voluntary appearance at the prosecution will free him from the risk of flight and evidence destruction.

“Since he showed up voluntarily, the prosecutors should have no problem investigating him without detention,” another party official said.

The DUP was also freed from a political burden because concerns had grown that its presidential candidates would suffer damage during the party’s efforts to protect Park.


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

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