Political battles taken to courts

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Political battles taken to courts

Prominent lawmakers of the ruling and opposition parties are suing each other, tossing their political dogfights into courtrooms.

On Tuesday, an influential three-term lawmaker of the ruling Saenuri Party pressed defamation charges against a political heavyweight of the opposition Democratic Party. Saenuri Representative Suh Sang-kee, head of the National Assembly’s Intelligence Committee, said Representative Park Young-sun of the Democratic Party, who heads the legislature’s Legislation and Judiciary Committee, sullied his reputation with false accusations.

In a press conference on Sunday, Park and other DP lawmakers accused Suh and NIS chief Nam Jae-joon of making a secret deal to not open a session.

As the Intelligence Committee is split over Suh’s proposal to discuss a bill to stop cyberterrorism, no meeting has taken place for months. The opposition party recently demanded that a session be opened to discuss the scandal over the National Intelligence Service’s alleged interference in last year’s presidential election.

“Park made public groundless rumors despite her position as the head of the Legislation and Judiciary Committee,” Suh said. “As another head of a standing committee working together in the National Assembly, I cannot accept Park’s behavior.”

Park responded yesterday saying she will ask the prosecution to investigate Suh for abuse of power and dereliction of duty.

“His role as head of the Intelligence Committee is asking questions of the government on behalf of the people,” Park said. “What has Suh done in this job over the past three months?”

Earlier this year, two lawmakers from the opposition Unified Progressive Party pressed charges against the leaderships of the ruling and opposition parties for defamation.

In March, Representatives Lee Seok-ki and Kim Jae-yeon asked the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office to investigate 30 lawmakers of the Saenuri and Democratic parties who sponsored a measure to review their qualifications as lawmakers. Earlier that month, they had pressed charges against floor leaders of the two main parties who had agreed to review their qualifications at the National Assembly’s special committee on ethics.

The two lawmakers were suspected of becoming proportional representatives of the party through rigged internal primaries, but the party denied the accusations. They said the major parties’ attempt to review their qualifications ruined the lawmakers’ honor as well as the party’s reputation.

Chain reactions of lawsuits is a time-honored tradition in Korean politics. Before the presidential election last year, the Saenuri and the Democratic parties were filing lawsuits against each other over a Saenuri lawmaker’s claim that the late President Roh Moo-hyun made remarks undermining the legitimacy of the western sea border during a 2007 inter-Korean summit meeting.

Analysts said the lawsuits threaten the prosecution’s neutrality by asking it to decide political battles.

“When the National Assembly fails to resolve its own conflicts, how can it resolve the conflicts of interests of various groups?” asked Lee Joon-han, a professor of political science at the University of Incheon.

BY CHAE BYUNG-GUN, SER MYO-JA [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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