Opposition seeks Han’s dismissal

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Opposition seeks Han’s dismissal

The three opposition parties decided Tuesday to jointly submit a motion to demand the dismissal of Defense Minister Han Min-koo to protest the preliminary signing of the military intelligence-sharing pact with Japan.

The Korean Ministry of National Defense tentatively signed the bilateral General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) in Tokyo on Monday, despite domestic political protest on the issue.

Park Wan-joo, deputy floor leader of the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea, Kim Kwang-young, deputy floor leader of the People’s Party and Kim Jong-dae, a floor spokesman of the Justice Party, held a meeting at the National Assembly in western Seoul on Tuesday.

“The three opposition parties decided today to jointly submit a motion to dismiss Minister Han Min-koo over the preliminary signing of the GSOMIA,” People’s Party’s Rep. Kim said after the meeting.

To dismiss the defense minister, the lawmakers will need to vote on the motion, and if it receives a majority approval of 151 votes out of a possible 300 votes, the motion will be passed. Then the National Assembly will be able to vote whether to dismiss the minister. The motion to dismiss the minister will be scrapped if it is not acted on in the National Assembly within 72 hours after being submitted.

The opposition parties are therefore expected to wait until the end of the month to submit the motion so that the vote can happen at the beginning of December.

“Reviewing the law,” Minjoo Party’s Park said, “the National Assembly can approve of impeachment in cases when the Constitution or law have been violated, which does not apply to this situation.”

Korea announced that it plans to resume negotiations for a bilateral GSOMIA, a sensitive issue, with Japan on Oct. 27 after four years. The two countries were close to sealing a deal in 2012, which fell apart at the last minute because of a domestic outcry over the secretive nature of the closed-door negotiations and ongoing bilateral mistrust over unresolved historical and territorial disputes with Japan.

Despite Korea’s continued qualms about directly sharing information with Japan, Seoul and Tokyo have been in a trilateral information-sharing arrangement with Washington as an intermediary since December 2014.

The ruling Saenuri Party responded to the opposition party’s outcry over the bilateral intelligence sharing pact, saying that Korea has a lot to gain from the agreement. The Defense Ministry has emphasized that information-sharing with Tokyo will be helpful to counter North Korea’s nuclear and missile threat amid continued provocations.

Saenuri former chairman Kim Moo-sung said, “The opposition parties’ position is dumbfounding since they cannot differentiate whether it is for Japan’s benefit or for our benefit, when Japan will be sharing its strong military intelligence.”

He continued, “Our country shares intel with 32 countries around the world. We’ve already made a proposal to China, as well.”

Kim Myung-yeon, the Saenuri Party’s floor spokesman, said, “If we seal the Korea-Japan GSOMIA deal, there is more to gain than for us to give.”

The Defense Ministry claims directly sharing military intelligence on Pyongyang will help deter its nuclear and missile threats.

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