DP calls for anti-government protests

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DP calls for anti-government protests

The Democratic Party said it will start street rallies in central Seoul to protest the ruling party and the Park Geun-hye administration’s indifference to charges that the country’s spy agency interfered in last year’s presidential election.

Kim Han-gill, chairman of the DP, held an urgent press conference yesterday afternoon and condemned the Saenuri Party and the Blue House for their lack of will to reform the National Intelligence Service.

“It is already confirmed that the Blue House and the Saenuri Party have no intention to investigate the National Intelligence Service’s illegal interference in the presidential election and reform the spy agency,” Kim said. “We cannot show any more patience.”

Kim said as party chairman he will spearhead protests against the ruling party and the Park administration.

“I will personally command the protests and negotiations inside and outside the National Assembly,” he said. “As a first step, we will open a protest headquarters at Seoul Plaza tomorrow and hold a meeting with the public and our lawmakers.”

Kim urged the public to join the protests.

“I have faith that tens of thousands of the people seeking truth will be with us,” Kim said.

A duel between the ruling and main opposition parties has continued for months over the allegation that the National Intelligence Service operated an online campaign to sway public opinion against DP candidate Moon Jae-in ahead of the December presidential election. Earlier this month, the parties agreed to launch a 45-day legislative probe into the NIS’s alleged politicking. The investigation is scheduled to end Aug. 15.

The special probe by the National Assembly, however, is making little progress as the two parties fight over who should be called as witnesses.

The Democrats want to question Won Sei-hoon, head of the National Intelligence Service before the election, and Kim Yong-pan, who was Seoul police chief at the time.

The DP said it needs the Saenuri Party’s cooperate so the National Assembly can issue orders compelling their appearance at hearings.

The Saenuri Party said yesterday the DP was making unreasonable demand to compel the two former officials to testify because the law only allows such subpoenas when witnesses fail to show up without valid reasons.

Saenuri Representative Kwon Seong-dong said the ruling party doesn’t object to the DP’s plan to call them as witnesses but will not go against the law by forcing them to appear.

Yesterday was considered the deadline for the two parties’ negotiation on witnesses because witnesses must be notified with summons one week prior to their appearances. The probe committee scheduled the hearings for witnesses for August 7 and 8.

The DP’s Kim did not say the party will walk out of the National Assembly to boycott legislative activities. Speculation was high until yesterday that the Democrats would walk out.

“If the Saenuri Party continues to interfere with the probe, the DP will join hands with other political parties and civic groups to fight it,” said Representative Jun Byung-hun, floor leader of the DP. “And the ruling party and President Park must be held accountable for the confrontation.”

BY SER MYO-JA [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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