Giving up the privilege to immunity

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Giving up the privilege to immunity

Choi Hyun-ju
The author is a life and economic news team reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

In England, where the parliamentary system was developed early, the biggest friction between the king and the aristocrats was taxes. In June 1215, King John signed the Magna Carta, or the Great Charter, which is called the “Bible of the British Constitution.” It states that taxes such as military service payment and special subsidy tax cannot be collected without the approval of the general meeting of the aristocrats. It is the cornerstone of taxation according to national law.
Successive kings did not properly follow this, and after Elizabeth I, the symbol of absolute monarchy, died unmarried in 1603, a distant relative, King James, ascended to the throne. The aristocrats ignored him for his lack of legitimacy. King James countered by arresting and imprisoning nobles for various reasons. The aristocrats strongly resisted and enacted the parliamentary immunity act. The law does not allow the king to arbitrarily arrest or detain a member of parliament. This was the beginning of immunity privilege.
In Korea, immunity privilege has continued from the Constituent Assembly in 1948. Article 44 of the Constitution stipulates that “a member of the National Assembly shall not be arrested or detained without the consent of the National Assembly during the session (from the opening day to closing day),  except in cases of flagrant delicto.” The law was often abused as a “criminal privilege.”
Lee Jae-myung, former presidential candidate of the Democratic Party, is creating controversy over “bulletproof candidacy.” Unlike previous candidates who took time to self-reflect after losing the presidential election, he announced a bid for a by-election in a district he does not have ties with. It happened four days after the police raided Seongnam City Hall in relation to donations to Seongnam FC. Suspicions related to Lee include preferential treatment for the Daejang-dong development project and private use of his official credit cards.
The People Power Party pressures him to “declare the renunciation of immunity” while the Democratic Party calls it “killing Lee Jae-myung.” Lee is not the only one who should renounce immunity. There are many others who are embroiled in corruption allegations and hide behind immunity. Seeing them jumping at demands to be investigated over allegations like other citizens, I wonder if they have any reasons why investigations should not proceed.
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