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(3rd LD) Parties on collision course as DP advances bill on corruption probe agency

All News 23:28 December 07, 2020

(ATTN: ADDS 7th para, 2nd photo)

SEOUL, Dec. 7 (Yonhap) -- Political tension heightened Monday as the ruling Democratic Party (DP) unilaterally passed a bill through a parliamentary committee on a new agency to investigate high-profile corruption.

The majority DP railroaded a set of controversial bills through the Legislation and Judiciary Committee's sub-panel, including a proposed revision to the law on the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO).

Members of the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) staged a sit-in in front of the committee room, holding pickets and yelling at DP lawmakers. PPP floor leader Joo Ho-young threatened a boycott of all parliamentary activities.

The revision, if approved in a parliamentary plenary session, would effectively strip PPP-side members of a recommendation committee for CIO chief candidates of their veto power.

"We will use all resistance means and measures possible (to block the revision bill), including filibusters and referral to the agenda adjustment committee," Joo said during a meeting of party lawmakers after the bill's passage.

"If we cannot block it with the legal procedures guaranteed by the National Assembly Act, we will boycott all parliamentary schedules and fight outside the National Assembly," he added.

PPP lawmakers started a sit-in protest in front of the main hall of the National Assembly late at night to prevent the DP from convening a plenary session.

Lawmakers of the main opposition People Power Party rally at the National Assembly in Seoul on Dec. 7, 2020, to voice their objection to the ruling party's passage of a revised bill on the launch of a special investigative agency for probes into corruption by high-ranking public officials. (Yonhap)

The passage came after President Moon Jae-in expressed hope for the launch of the CIO earlier in the day, renewing his determination to reform powerful institutions, especially the state prosecution service.

The DP is aiming to launch the CIO, a core campaign pledge by President Moon, within this year.

But its launch is being stalled after a seven-member committee in charge of shortlisting candidates for the first CIO chief failed to come to an agreed-upon outcome in its three rounds of meetings last month, due mainly to resistance by two PPP-side members on the committee.

Earlier in the day, the two parties' floor leaders agreed to seek negotiations on the issue of picking the inaugural chief of the new agency.

"(Both parties agreed) to have dense consultation on recommending candidates for the CIO chief," PPP spokesman Rep. Choi Hyung-du said after the meeting between the floor leaders mediated by National Assembly Speaker Rep. Park Byeong-seug.

"It is designed to select CIO chief candidates receptible (to both parties, based on) the process that has taken place so far," Choi noted.

Members of the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) stage a sit-in protest at the National Assembly in Seoul, on Dec. 7, 2020, holding pickets opposing the ruling Democratic Party (DP)'s unilateral passage of a bill through a parliamentary committee on a new agency to investigate high-profile corruption. (Yonhap)

A failure to strike a deal on the issue, however, is likely to create a firestorm of bipartisan tension, with the DP, powered by its command of a hefty parliamentary majority, planning to go it alone and pass the revision to the CIO law this week if an agreement is not made.

In a two-track strategy aimed at preparing against the negotiations' potential breakdown, the DP advanced the revision bill through the Legislation and Judiciary Committee's subcommittee, putting it on course to the plenary session.

The DP is adamant that it will pass the envisioned revision through the parliamentary plenary session scheduled for Wednesday.

Democratic Party floor leader Rep. Kim Tae-nyeon (L) and People Power Party floor leader Rep. Joo Ho-young exchange greetings during a meeting mediated by National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-seug (C) on Dec. 7, 2020. (Yonhap)

pbr@yna.co.kr
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