Prosecution bill railroaded through the National Assembly
A bill stripping the prosecution of investigative powers was passed Saturday by the National Assembly along party lines. It will likely become law, as President Moon Jae-in supports the bill.
In the vote, at around 4:20 p.m., 172 lawmakers voted in favor and 3 against, with 2 abstentions. Of the 171 Democratic Party (DP) lawmakers, 161 voted yes, with the 10 others absent for various reasons unrelated to the bill. No one from the party abstained. A total of 11 others — independents and Justice Party and the People's Party members — also voted in favor.
The People Power Party (PPP) boycotted, saying that the DP and Speaker Park Byeong-seug railroaded the bill through. Many PPP lawmakers walked out, while others approached the podium protesting.
The bill — which revises the Prosecutors' Office Act and the Criminal Procedure Act — was first proposed by the DP weeks ago. It limits prosecution's investigative authority to two types of crimes — corruption and economic crimes — until the establishment of a new investigative agency, at which point all authority will be lost.
The DP and PPP had at one point reached a compromise, but the agreement collapsed and the DP forced the bill through the judiciary committee last Wednesday. As the bill was brought to the National Assembly the same day, the PPP filibustered to block its passage. The first filibusterer, Rep. Kweon Seong-dong, called the legislation "an outcome of deceptive political engineering."
On Wednesday, the PPP filed for an injunction with the Constitutional Court to stop the bill, and the Supreme Prosecutors' Office is also filing for an injunction.
On Friday, a day before the passing of the bill, PPP floor leader Kweon Seong-dong asked for a meeting with President Moon to request a veto.
A related bill, which revises the Criminal Procedure Act, prohibits the initiation of a case separate from the original case and excludes third-parties from raising objections to the results of police investigations. The DP will convene an extraordinary session of the National Assembly on Tuesday to pass the revision. With its majority, the party can force the legislative body to meet.
The DP is also accelerating the establishment of the Judicial Reform Special Committee, which will in turn form within 18 months a new investigative agency to probe serious crimes. This agency will take charge of major criminal investigations.
"We must keep up the reforms of institutions of power with greater responsibility," DP floor leader Park Hong-keun said at the general meeting of the National Assembly.
"As shown in yesterday's opinion poll, public opinion is changing," he added. "More than half of the people are of the opinion that the reform of the prosecution should be pursued. If reforms to normalize the prosecution's functions are completed, the people will recognize it and history will eventually judge it positively."
"The 171-seat DP has violated the National Assembly without even a single public hearing or discussion and is enforcing a vicious law that is against the people's wishes," Kweon Seong-dong, floor leader of the PPP, said.
"President Moon should veto this bill, not be the beneficiary of it," Kweon added. "The Constitutional Court has the duty to prevent social chaos and the destruction of the constitution that this bill will bring."
BY LIM JEONG-WON [firstname.lastname@example.org]