DP disapproves of opposition's CIO nominee

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DP disapproves of opposition's CIO nominee

Four of the seven-member committee that will nominate the candidates to head the Corruption Investigation Office for High-Ranking Officials. From left, Kim Jong-cheol, Park Kyung-jun, Lim Jung-hyuk and Lee Heon. Kim and Park were selected by the ruling Democratic Party and Lim and Lee by the opposition People Power Party. [YONHAP]

Four of the seven-member committee that will nominate the candidates to head the Corruption Investigation Office for High-Ranking Officials. From left, Kim Jong-cheol, Park Kyung-jun, Lim Jung-hyuk and Lee Heon. Kim and Park were selected by the ruling Democratic Party and Lim and Lee by the opposition People Power Party. [YONHAP]

 
The ruling party condemned the opposition party's plan to include a scandal-plagued conservative lawyer on a committee that will recommend the head of a new corruption investigation agency.  
 
Lee Nak-yon, chairman of the ruling Democratic Party (DP), said Monday that the opposition People Power Party (PPP) finally decided to name its two members on a nomination committee that will determine the head of the Corruption Investigation Office for High-Ranking Officials (CIO). But he did not welcome their choices.  
 
Last week, the PPP said it would appoint two lawyers, Lim Jung-hyuk and Lee Heon. The DP is particularly upset about Lee because has been a strong critic of the current administration.
 
"Lee previously said in an interview that the law governing the CIO is unconstitutional," Rep. Choi In-ho, spokesman for the DP, said Monday in a Facebook message. "Naming Lee to the nomination committee shows that the PPP is trying to obstruct the launch of the CIO. The PPP must withdraw its appointment of Lee, who denies the CIO's legitimacy."
 
Lee was appointed president of the Korea Legal Aid Corporation by the Ministry of Justice in 2016 during the Park Geun-hye administration. After Moon Jae-in became president in May 2017, the ministry dismissed him from the post in April 2018. He had 13 months left in his tenure.
 
Before dismissing Lee, the ministry conducted an audit into the legal aid corporation and announced that he had paid improper incentives to its employees. Lee claimed that he was fired for political reasons.
 
In May 2015, Lee served as the vice chairman of the special investigation committee into the Sewol ferry's sinking in April 2014. The Saenuri Party, the predecessor of the PPP, named him to the committee.
 
He stepped down from that post in February 2016 in protest of the committee's plan to investigate Park's whereabouts and actions during the crucial seven hours of the ferry's sinking.
 
Victims' families later filed criminal complaints saying that Lee had obstructed the special investigation committee's operation. The probe is still pending.
 
In February, Lee filed a criminal complaint against President Moon for alleged abuse of power to influence the 2018 Ulsan mayoral election to help his friend win.
 
The other PPP representative on the committee, Lim, is a former prosecutor who served in senior posts including director of the Institute of Justice and deputy head of the Supreme Prosecutors' Office. He left the prosecution in 2015 and became a partner in the Sanwoo law firm.
 
"If the PPP is using its members to stop the launch of the CIO, our party and the people will not tolerate it," DP Chairman Lee said.
 
For the committee to nominate a candidate, six of its seven members must agree, effectively giving the opposition veto power. The committee is supposed to offer President Moon Jae-in two candidates to choose from.
 
The committee includes the minister of justice, minister of National Court Administration and the president of the Korean Bar Association, as well as two members named by the DP and another two by the PPP.
 
In July, the DP named Kim Jong-cheol, a law professor at Yonsei University, and Park Kyung-jun, a lawyer, to the committee.  
 
Fearing that the PPP will use its veto power, the DP recently submitted a bill to the National Assembly to change the law governing the investigation agency. The bill said the nomination committee will require five out of seven votes to recommend a candidate to Moon, effectively depriving the PPP of its veto power.
 
The CIO was a campaign promise by Moon and a key part of his prosecutorial reforms. At the end of last year, the DP and its allies pushed through a series of bills to create the CIO, making it the first state organization permitted to take over some powers of the prosecution. Opposition lawmakers boycotted the vote, calling it an attempt to tame the state prosecution.
 
According to the law, the CIO was supposed to launch in July, but the process has been delayed as the PPP did not fill its vacancies on the nomination committee.  
 
In the meantime, the party filed a petition to the Constitutional Court to question the legality of the agency. The court said in April that it is reviewing the case.
 
The CIO 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 CIO head will serve a three-year term. The appointment does not require the legislature's approval, although a confirmation hearing will take place.
 
BY SER MYO-JA   [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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