‘Bulletproof’ lies

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‘Bulletproof’ lies

A so-called “bulletproof session” will be held once again in the National Assembly. The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy demanded a special session be opened from Friday to allegedly deal with delayed legislation, including the Special Sewol Law aimed at providing answers and aid to the families of the victims who died in April on the ferry that sunk off the nation’s southwest coast and toughening maritime safety regulations.

In reality, however, the NPAD wanted the special session to protect three of its lawmakers - Shin Geh-ryoon, Shin Hak-yong and Kim Jae-yun - from being arrested by the prosecution for taking bribes in return for legislation from special interest groups. In Korea, lawmakers enjoy immunity from arrest while a session is underway.

The NPAD even set up a committee to counter the prosecution’s arrest before defining it as “oppression against the opposition.” The party’s Secretary General Cho Jeong-sik criticized the investigation as an infringement of their legislative rights. A senior opposition member is denying his peers’ alleged illegal acts.

Since its crushing defeat in the July 30 by-elections, the NPAD established an emergency committee to correct missteps of the past and specifically promised to give up the privilege of immunity from arrest. That was an empty promise. Issuing arrest warrants falls under the jurisdiction of the courts, and lawmakers can defend themselves after appearing in court to determine the warrants’ validity. The opposition’s assertion that the prosecution was embarking on a biased investigation is ill-grounded as the prosecution has also filed arrest warrants for ruling Saenuri Party lawmakers Cho Hyun-ryong and Park Sang-eun on similar charges. Kim Moo-sung, chairman of the ruling party, pledged not to hold a “bulletproof” session anymore.

Once the special session kicks off Friday, the prosecution can’t begin procedures to determine whether to issue arrest warrants without the consent of the legislature. Thursday, today, is the only time available. The court must summon the lawmakers today even if it needs to exercise its power to arrest them for a 24-hour period to determine the validity of arrest warrants. Otherwise, those lawmakers can be shielded by the special session and a regular session which starts next month. Clearly, that would have nothing to do with justice.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 21, Page 30

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