DP vows to open new investigation agency next month
The ruling party on Monday vowed to launch a new agency in charge of investigating senior public servants as scheduled next month, regardless of whether the opposition party continues refusing to participate in the process.
“Even if we have to take extraordinary measures, we will launch the Corruption Investigation Office for High-Ranking Officials [CIO] speedily,” said Chairman Lee Hae-chan of the ruling Democratic Party (DP) on Monday. During the party’s Supreme Council meeting, Lee said, “We will make sure to open it within the deadline stated in the law.”
The CIO is central to the party's and the Moon Jae-in administration’s campaign to reform the prosecution, Lee added.
The DP was seen as ramming through a series of bills at the end of last year to create the new investigatory office and delegate some of the prosecution’s exclusive indictment powers to it. The CIO is the first state organization permitted to take over some of the powers of the prosecution.
“The Legislation and Judiciary Committee that hindered the launch of the CIO and obstructed the reform of the prosecution during the 20th National Assembly is now gone,” Lee said. “The Legislation and Judiciary Committee in the 21st Assembly must launch the CIO as scheduled and make the prosecution reform itself.”
Earlier this month, the DP ended the decades-long tradition of a senior lawmaker of the largest opposition party occupying the chair of the powerful Legislation and Judiciary Committee -- the final gatekeeper of all bills before they are voted on. On June 15, DP Rep. Yun Ho-jung was elected as the committee’s chairman in a vote boycotted by the opposition United Future Party (UFP).
On Wednesday, President Moon sent an official letter to National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-seug to start the process of recommending candidates to head the CIO. The new agency is scheduled to open by July 15.
According to the new law, a seven-member candidate nomination committee, including two opposition lawmakers, must recommend two candidates for the president to choose from. Becoming a candidate requires six out of seven votes, effectively giving the UFP veto power.
The DP is pressuring the UFP, which has boycotted all legislative activities since the ruling party used its majority to take control of key committees, to form the nomination committee as soon as possible. The DP controls 176 of 300 legislative seats while the UFP controls 103.
“The UFP has no power or justification to deny the CIO or change the law governing it,” said Rep. Park Kwang-on, a member of the DP’s Supreme Council. “It only has the duty and responsibility to create the CIO as decided by the people.”
The DP is expected to operate the Legislation and Judiciary Committee to revise the laws governing the process of forming the CIO if the UFP’s boycott continues.
DP Rep. Back Hye-ryun already drafted and submitted a bill on June 1 to overcome the opposition’s boycott. The bill would allow the National Assembly speaker to designate lawmakers from negotiation blocs to form the nomination committee if the process is delayed.
As of now, the DP and the UFP are the only negotiation blocs, but the bill creates the possibility that all seven members on the committee will be from the DP.
“The Blue House requested that the office launch on July 15, but the UFP is refusing to participate in the process,” DP spokesman Kang Hoon-sik said. “We will have to find other ways to get it started.”
The law governing the new investigative office states that it will have jurisdiction over 6,500 senior officials including the president and his or her immediate relatives; senior presidential aides; the National Assembly speaker and lawmakers; the Supreme Court chief justice and judges; the Constitutional Court chief justice and judges; the prime minister, ministers and vice ministers; the prosecutor general and prosecutors; mayors, governors and education office chiefs; and senior police and military officers.
The agency has the power to indict Supreme Court justices, the prosecutor general, judges, prosecutors and police officials, making clear that the prosecution won’t be able to protect its own members from criminal charges.
The head of the new agency will have a three-year tenure. The appointment does not require the legislature’s approval, although a confirmation hearing will take place.
BY SER MYO-JA, KIM HYO-SEONG [firstname.lastname@example.org]