Minjoo proposes a new, potent oversight agency

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Minjoo proposes a new, potent oversight agency

The main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea presented on Thursday a plan to establish a new and independent agency to investigate high-ranking public servants, including the president, fueling discussion among lawmakers on reforming the prosecution.

In a press conference, the Minjoo Party taskforce announced its prosecutorial reform proposal, stressing that the key will be establishing an independent investigation agency targeting top officials. “Just like the National Human Rights Commission,” it said, “the agency should be established as an independent body.”

According to the Minjoo Party’s proposal, the agency will be given not only investigative authority but the right to indict and conduct court proceedings. Under the current Criminal Procedure Act, only a prosecutor has prosecutorial rights.

The scope of investigation for the planned agency will cover public servants higher than vice ministers, including the president, prime minister and lawmakers. Most members of the presidential office will also be included.

Judges and prosecutors as well as public servants higher than director-level at the law enforcement authorities - including the Board of Audit and Inspection, National Intelligence Service and Fair Trade Commission - will be covered. Not only officials, but also spouses and immediate families members, will be subject to investigations.

According to the plan, the agency will investigate crimes such as bribery, political funding law violations and tax evasion. The agency head will be endorsed by a nomination committee and the president will make the appointment after a National Assembly hearing to guarantee independence.

The proposal said a request by a National Assembly negotiation bloc can trigger an investigation even if the agency does not open a case independently or at the request by law enforcement authorities. A negotiation bloc requires more than 20 lawmakers and the Saenuri Party, Minjoo Party and People’s Party are the current three negotiation blocs.

The Minjoo Party said it will soon create a bill based on the proposal and submit it to the National Assembly. It already agreed to cooperate with other opposition parties to create an independent investigation agency.

In the past, liberal politicians have attempted to create an agency specializing in investigating top officials but their plans never won approval. Now, feasibility is higher than ever because opposition lawmakers outnumber the ruling Saenuri Party in the current legislature. The Minjoo Party occupies 121 seats, the People’s Party 38 and the Justice Party six in the 300-member National Assembly.

“We will make it the top priority of the August session,” Rep. Woo Sang-ho, Minjoo’s floor leader, said. “Some Saenuri lawmakers agree with the need so the possibility of passage is higher than ever.”

The Justice Party also proposed on Thursday to create an independent investigation body for high-ranking officials. The People’s Party said it will create an internal team to draft its bill.

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

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