NPAD spurns meetings, urges hearing over leakThe monthlong extraordinary session of the National Assembly was partially paralyzed for a second day Thursday after the main opposition boycotted several standing committees crucial for handling bills related to public livelihood and economic revitalization.
They demanded that the Assembly convene the House Steering Committee, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Blue House, and conduct a hearing to resolve lingering suspicions concerning a behind-the-scenes power struggle between President Park Geun-hye’s confidants.
The controversy, the biggest political scandal so far to rock her administration, was prompted by a leaked internal report from the presidential office. “Convoking the House Steering Committee and holding a hearing is a prerequisite for the normalization of the National Assembly,” said Woo Yoon-keun, the floor leader of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD). “[If the ruling Saenuri Party] bars summoning one of the standing committees, it would be an act tantamount to monopolizing the Assembly.”
NPAD lawmakers refused to join the meeting Thursday by the Legislation and Judiciary Committee, which was set to table pending bills.
The Saenuri was quick to counter the main opposition, however, claiming the NPAD was taking hostage of livelihood-related bills.
“Dragging down these bills just because their political demands are not accepted is far from a responsible attitude,” said Saenuri Chairman Kim Moo-sung.
Lee Wan-koo, the ruling party’s floor leader, added that the proper procedure would be for the Assembly to discuss measures based on the prosecution’s investigation.
“A political fight will only bring about mutual destruction,” he said.
The Blue House became mired in controversy three weeks ago following a report by a local newspaper on the leaked Blue House document.
After questioning a string of Blue House officials and those from related offices, prosecutors have tentatively singled out three major suspects behind the leak.
The Blue House report alleges that Chung Yoon-hoi, a former aide to President Park during her days as a lawmaker, has continued to wield considerable influence, discussing state affairs and human resources matters with a tight 10-member circle that includes three of the president’s secretaries.
The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office on Thursday requested an arrest warrant for Park Gwan-cheon, a senior police officer who admitted to drafting the leaked Blue House report dated on Jan. 6 while he was seconded to the Office of the Presidential Secretary for Civil Service Discipline. Park is alleged to have brought out the document upon the end of his term there in February. The 48-year-old is charged with violating the law on presidential record management and concealing public documents.
Park was arrested Tuesday night. An arrest warrant must be issued within 48 hours after an emergency arrest is made.
Additionally, two police officers at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency are suspected to have photocopied and distributed the report without Park’s knowledge, according to a tentative conclusion by prosecutors.
One of the officers was found to have committed suicide on Saturday, leaving behind a 14-page note.
The policemen initially claimed that they never saw the part in the report about Chung.
Whether the Blue House coerced either of the two policemen to issue a false confession in exchange for a favorable arrangement - a claim made by the late officer in his suicide note - is also being investigated.
Prosecutors are also seeking to determine whether Park may have orchestrated the entire scandal. He previously testified that he was ordered by his superior, Cho Eung-cheon, the former presidential secretary for civil service discipline, to write the report.
Cho is known to have personal ties with Park Ji-won, the president’s younger brother. Prosecutors said Thursday they would summon Cho for further questioning.
BY SEO JI-EUN [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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