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(LEAD) Parties decide to put off plenary meeting to Thursday

Politics 19:50 January 06, 2020

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; UPDATES with more info throughout; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, Jan. 6 (Yonhap) -- Political parties agreed Monday to convene a parliamentary plenary session to deal with contentious prosecution reform bills later this week, after a confirmation hearing for the prime minister nominee.

The ruling Democratic Party (DP) had wanted the session to be held on Monday as it seeks to swiftly complete the passage of its priority bills placed on a legislative fast track.

But the DP accepted two opposition parties' offer to convene the meeting on Thursday, after a two-day confirmation hearing for Chung Sye-kyun, prime minister nominee, set for Tuesday and Wednesday.

(LEAD) Parties decide to put off plenary meeting to Thursday - 1

The ruling party-led bloc fast-tracked the investigative power proposals in late April, along with an electoral reform bill and a measure to set up an independent agency to probe corruption by high-ranking public officials.

Prosecution reform is one of President Moon Jae-in's key campaign pledges.

The prosecution and police have long been in a standoff over their roles in criminal investigations.

Currently, police are able to initiate probes but not allowed to close them without prosecution approval. Only state prosecutors can file indictments in direct control of police investigation.

If passed, the bills will enable the police to close probes of cases without approval from state prosecutors and put an end to prosecutors' practice of commanding police probes. It means the police could effectively decide whether to seek indictments after their initial investigation.

Even if police want to file charges, however, they will have to continue to go through the prosecutors' office administratively. Otherwise, they could clear suspects of charges by closing the case.

Ruling party lawmakers say the proposed legislation also has a tool to prevent the police from abusing their expanded authority. The prosecution can request reinvestigation if the police's refusal to refer the case to state prosecutors is deemed unlawful. If a further probe affirms the case, police must refer it to the prosecution.

Meanwhile, the speaker is also expected to introduce a package of three proposals on improving accounting transparency at private preschools and around 180 other bills related to the people's livelihoods at Thursday's meeting.

The private kindergarten-related bills are set to be introduced one year after the National Assembly put them on a fast track in December 2018.

A ruling party lawmaker submitted the bills aimed at rooting out irregularities at private kindergartens following public uproar over widespread corruption among preschool owners, including accounting fraud and budget misappropriation.


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