People’s lawmakers not to be heldA local court on Tuesday struck down the prosecution’s request for the pretrial detention of two opposition lawmakers accused of taking kickbacks.
The Seoul Western District Court rejected requests for warrants to detain Reps. Park Sun-sook and Kim Soo-min of the People’s Party.
The two lawmakers and a senior official of the party were accused of receiving kickbacks during the party’s April 13 general election campaign.
Kim was in charge of public relations for Ahn Cheol-soo’s new centrist political party and Park was the secretary general of the party and oversaw the campaign fund account.
Park was accused of taking 216.2 million won ($188,490) in kickbacks from two advertising companies hired for the campaign.
She was also accused of creating a false contract with one of the companies to deceive the National Election Commission. Kim was accused of receiving 100 million won in kickbacks using her PR company that she ran before becoming a proportional representative candidate of the party.
Warrant hearings for the two lawmakers took place on Monday, and the court decided early Tuesday morning that it will not allow the prosecution to question them under detention.
Kim has a stable residence and there is no fear of evidence destruction or flight, the court said.
The court also said the prosecution has failed to present enough evidence to detain Park at this stage of the investigation.
The two lawmakers, who have denied the charges, welcomed the decision.
Although the two lawmakers were saved from detention, the scandal has already dealt a serious blow to the People’s Party, which won 38 seats in the election to become the third-largest group in the legislature.
Wang Ju-hyeon, the party’s former deputy secretary-general, was taken into the prosecution’s custody on June 28. The party’s two co-chairmen, Ahn and Chun Jung-bae, also stepped down from their leadership posts on June 29.
“If we disperse, we will die, but if we unite, we will survive,” Rep. Park Jie-won, the party’s floor leader and acting head, said during a meeting with the party’s lawmakers Tuesday morning.
He added, “One layer of fog has cleared and we have a fresh start.”
The prosecution is facing a predicament now that the court has turned down the warrant requests. It has until Saturday to formally press charges against Wang, who was detained last month. The prosecution planned to detain the two lawmakers and question them together with Wang before indicting them.
“We are studying why our warrant requests were rejected,” said a source from the Seoul Western District Prosecutors’ Office. “We will decide soon whether we should reapply for the warrants or not.”
BY SER MYO-JA, HONG SANG-JI [firstname.lastname@example.org]