Ruling Party Protests Censure of Prosecution

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Ruling Party Protests Censure of Prosecution

Ruling party legislators indicated Thursday that they will boycott the National Assembly vote Friday on a bill to impeach the prosecutor general and his deputy.

Chung Kyun-whan, floor leader of the ruling Millennium Democratic Party, said that his party cannot accept the introduction of the bill since it is what he described as a political offensive from the opposition.

"The bill does not meet the requirements for an impeachment bill," said Park Byeong-seog, ruling party spokesman. "It is the position of our party that lawmakers who are being investigated by the prosecution cannot participate in the vote."

Ruling party lawmakers are mulling over the idea that they exit along with 20 lawmakers from minor opposition parties and one without party affiliation shortly before the vote is to take place.

Meanwhile, Lee Hoi-chang, president of the opposition Grand National Party, asked his lawmakers to abide by the party line at a caucus Thursday. He said that impeachment of the prosecution leadership would uphold democracy and justice.

A bill to impeach the prosecutor general is not without precedent.

Kim Tae-joung, a former chief prosecutor, was almost impeached by a National Assembly vote in April of last year.

There were more votes for impeaching him than against - 145-140 - but since the number of yea votes did not exceed the majority of 150, Mr. Kim continued in his post.

A total of 137 votes are needed to pass the bill this time around because there are fewer legislators in this National Assembly than the previous one. The opposition has 133 seats and the ruling party only has 119. Therefore, the ruling party must lure more than 18 votes to its side to win the vote.

Senior officials from both political parties are busy seeking votes from the minor opposition United Liberal Democrats, who hold 17 seats.

A United Liberal Democrats' official said that Kim Jong-pil, head of the minor opposition, does not think the impeachment proposal is justified. But the party is reportedly involved in an internal dispute, further enhancing its role as a possible deciding vote.

A ruling party official said: "Everything is in the United Liberal Democrats' hands. I hope Mr. Kim Jong-pil exerts more of an effort to persuade his colleagues to vote against the bill."

Asked about the vote facing him, Park Soon-yong, the prosecutor general, said: "I'm most concerned about the reaction of junior prosecutors." Some prosecution officials said the bill challenges the political neutrality and status of the prosecution.

If the vote goes against the officials, the case will move to the Constitutional Court, where the nine judges will rule on the bill of impeachment. If at least six approve it, the impeachment is upheld.

by Lee Yang-soo

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