Citing obstruction, DP to revise CIO law to move process forward
The ruling Democratic Party (DP) announced Thursday it will revise a law to expedite the selection of the inaugural head of a powerful new corruption investigation agency, after a special bipartisan committee tasked to pick two final candidates ended its activities in a deadlock.
DP Chairman Rep. Lee Nak-yon at the National Assembly said the party would pass a revision to the law on the Corruption Investigation Office for High-Ranking Officials (CIO) at the Legislation and Judiciary Committee by Nov. 25, then ratify the law on the floor by Dec. 2.
Lee’s declaration that the DP would launch the agency by the end of the year follows through on months of warnings that the party would exercise its legislative majority to revise the law if the opposition does not respect deadlines in the process to appoint the CIO’s first director.
Wednesday was the last day a special committee of seven tasked with vetting and nominating candidates to lead the agency could narrow down a shortlist, but intense disagreements between its members — who themselves have been appointed by rival parties — resulted in a failure to reach a consensus on the two finalists.
According to the CIO law, six of seven committee members must agree for the body to reach decisions on the candidates — a rule designed to ensure a nonpartisan and independent figure leads the powerful agency.
Once two finalists are agreed upon, the law dictates the president pick one of them to head the CIO, who will have power to investigate and indict top officials, prosecutors, judges and presidential family members for corruption.
But with two of the seven committee members chosen by the main opposition People Power Party (PPP), which has fiercely opposed the new agency, a consensus was difficult to expect from the outset.
“The CIO law designed to respect the opinions of the minority has been misused to prevent the launch of the CIO itself,” Lee said.
“We have agreed that an improvement to the law is necessary — not only for now but also for later — to prevent the CIO from going adrift for an extended period of time.”
The DP’s floor leader, Rep. Kim Tae-nyeon, also chimed in at a separate meeting Thursday morning, saying his party would “no longer be dragged around by the obstructionist behavior of the opposition intended to derail the launch of the CIO.”
Kim added the DP’s “unconditional” goal was to launch the CIO by the end of the year.
The PPP responded to the announcement with sharp rebuke, with its interim Chairman Kim Chong-in calling the DP’s move an “act going against the principles of the rule of law.”
“We have no choice but to do what we can, mobilizing all the capacity we have, to oppose [the revision of the CIO bill],” he said.
Accusing the DP of attempting to use the CIO to cover up the administration’s corruption, PPP Rep. Kim Do-eup said the agency would be used to crack down on public figures dissenting against the administration, like Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl.
But Rep. Kim also acknowledged his party lacks the votes in the National Assembly to stop the DP from moving forward with the revision.
“It is embarrassing, but we can only ask the people to stop it,” he said.
BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [firstname.lastname@example.org]