Charges brought against Woo for failing to show

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Charges brought against Woo for failing to show

The parliamentary House Steering Committee on Wednesday decided to bring charges against Woo Byung-woo, senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, for failing to appear at the National Assembly’s audit session.

Woo, who faces allegations of corruption and power abuse, failed to attend the audit and inspection session held by the House Steering Committee last week.

Chung Jin-suk, floor leader of the ruling Saenuri Party, raised the issue in a session of the committee and no lawmaker present made any objections, leading to a bipartisan decision to press charges against Woo.

“We press charges against Secretary Woo, who failed to provide a valid reason as to why he did not attend the National Assembly audit session, as stipulated in the Act on Testimony and Appraisal before the National Assembly,” the fourth-term lawmaker said.

According to the Act on Testimony and Appraisal before the National Assembly, if an individual summoned to testify for a parliamentary audit does not appear without a valid reason, this individual can face up to three years in prison or a fine as high as 10 million won ($8,800).

It is the first time that a current Blue House secretary has faced prosecution charges for failing to attend a parliamentary session.

Prior to the audit session, Woo submitted a written excuse slip to Rep. Chung saying that he could not attend the audit because of official responsibilities.

The scandal-ridden Woo underwent investigation by the special inspector general under a newly established system to root out irregularities among high-ranking officials. The case was then passed on to prosecutors to continue investigating him on charges of embezzlement and abuse of authority, but Woo has resisted public pressure to step down as aide to President Park Geun-hye.

The opposition attacked presidential aides in general amid the snowballing scandal involving the leaking of Blue House documents to Choi Soon-sil, a longtime friend of President Park.

“Fundamentally, it’s not just Secretary Woo, but presidential chief of staff Lee Won-jong and all Blue House staff are at the center of causing national disorder, so this is a situation where they should resign en masse,” Park Wan-joo, deputy floor leader of the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea, said during the meeting. “We can no longer leave the country to be led by the Blue House.”

Rep. Kim Kwan-young, deputy floor leader of the minor opposition People’s Party, said, “The remarks made by Lee Won-jong, presidential secretary for general affairs Lee Jae-man and others were shown to be different than what said in the president’s apology. We need to discuss perjury by these individuals and press charges against them, as well.”

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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