Chung Sye-kyun passed as new prime minister

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Chung Sye-kyun passed as new prime minister

The National Assembly on Monday passed a motion to confirm Chung Sye-kyun as prime minister.

The ruling Democratic Party (DP) and its legislative allies attended a plenary session late in the evening and passed the bills. The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) also participated in the vote to cast ballots against Chung.

Chung’s confirmation motion was passed by 164 votes. Of the 278 lawmakers who cast votes, 109 opposed and one abstained. Four votes were invalid.

President Moon Jae-in nominated Chung, a six-term lawmaker, former chairman of the DP and a former National Assembly speaker, as the new prime minister in December. He went through a confirmation hearing last week.

The LKP held a press conference earlier in the afternoon and vowed to vote against him. The LKP lawmakers said it was against the principle of the separation of powers to name a former National Assembly speaker as prime minister. They also said Chung failed to faithfully submit records during the confirmation process.

A package of bills to redistribute investigative authority between the prosecution and police, completing the last step of President Moon’s project to whittle away power from state prosecutors, was also scheduled to take place later in the evening after press time.

The bills were designed to take away some investigative powers of the prosecution and give them to the police. The LKP said it would not participate in the vote in order to express its disapproval.

Last year, the DP drafted the bills to revise the Criminal Procedure Act and the Prosecutors’ Office Act. Opposition parties, except the LKP, later joined the ruling party’s legislative alliance and incorporated their opinions to those bills.

The DP-led alliance designated the prosecution reform bills as fast-track items on April 30, 2019, creating a compulsory legislative calendar to vote on them. It took 259 days for the fast-track process to wrap up Monday.

The passage of two contentious bills would complete a years-long campaign by the administration and the DP to weaken the prosecution’s powers. Another contentious project of creating a new investigation agency for senior public servants and delegating it with some of the prosecution’s exclusive indictment powers was accomplished when the DP and its allies rammed the bill through the National Assembly on Dec. 30, 2019.

According to the revisions, the prosecution’s hierarchical authority to command the police in an investigation will be redefined as a more horizontal, cooperative relationship. The police will be given the right to initiate a primary investigation and conclude the case.

Based on that change, the police, after a primary investigation, will only hand over a case that requires an indictment, while shelving cases that they decide to dismiss.

The prosecutors’ powers to conduct an investigation directly were also largely curtailed. The prosecution is allowed to launch an investigation only for high-profile allegations concerning corruption, the economy, civil servants, elections and the defense industry. The prosecution can also conduct direct investigations into major cases designated by the president such as a mass-casualty disaster and crimes involving members of the police.

The prosecution will maintain its right to make indictments and seek warrants.

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