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(LEAD) Assembly committee passes bill on removing opposition's veto power over new investigative body

All News 18:25 December 08, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with passage of anti-leaflet bill, bill on punishing modern history distortion in last 7 paras)

SEOUL, Dec. 8 (Yonhap) -- A parliamentary committee on Tuesday passed a bill that would strip the opposition of its power to frustrate the process to launch a new agency investigating high-profile corruption cases.

The Legislation and Judiciary Committee, where the ruling Democratic Party (DP) controls a majority, railroaded the bill to revise the act on the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO).

The revision bill aims to lower the bar on picking candidates for the inaugural CIO chief, as the opposition's veto has stalled the process to officially launch the new investigative organ.

The installation of the CIO is a core part of President Moon Jae-in's determined drive to reform the country's powerful institutions, especially the state prosecution service, which has often been accused of abusing its power to prosecute as well as investigate cases.

People Power Party lawmakers on the Legislation and Judiciary Committee encircle committee chairman Rep. Yun Ho-jung as he is about to pass a bill on revising the act on the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials on Dec. 8, 2020. (Yonhap)

If the revision bill is approved by the National Assembly's plenary session, the CIO chief recommendation committee would need assent from at least five of its seven members, not six, to name candidates, potentially bypassing two opposition-side members of the panel.

Due to their veto, the recommendation committee failed to produce an agreed-upon list of candidates through its three rounds of meetings last month.

The bill would also allow the committee to immediately resume its stalled recommendation process, as the DP is aiming to put the CIO into operation within this year.

A throng of PPP lawmakers gathered around the entrance to the committee meeting room, chanting slogans in protest of the unilateral passage.

PPP lawmakers on the parliamentary committee accused the committee chair, DP Rep. Yun Ho-jung, of "stealing" the revision bill and "parliamentary dictatorship."

PPP has further threatened to stage a filibuster campaign to paralyze the plenary session set for Wednesday as the DP is rushing to pass a set of "reform legislation" -- the revision bill as well as bills on restructuring the police and the state spy agency, the National Intelligence Service -- through the National Assembly within this week.

People Power Party lawmakers stage a protest in front of the meeting room of the parliamentary Legislation and Judiciary Committee's agenda coordination committee on Dec. 8, 2020. (Yonhap)

The panel also passed a revision bill on prohibiting the launching of anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the inter-Korean border, paving the way for lawmakers to vote on it during the plenary session of the National Assembly on Wednesday, the last day of its regular session.

DP members snubbed strong protests from their conservative counterparts in the committee.

Known as the "anti-leaflet law," the revision to the law on developing inter-Korean relations calls for punishment of up to three years in prison or a fine of up to 30 million won (US$27,600) for violating a related accord between the two Koreas via the sending of propaganda leaflets.

The North has long condemned the launches of leaflets, many of which contain criticism of the Kim Jong-un regime, by activist groups mainly led by defectors.

In June, the North blew up an inter-Korean liaison office in its border town of Kaesong, citing the propaganda leaflets flown from the South.

Separately, the committee passed a revision to the special law on the May 18 Gwangju uprising, a nationwide democracy movement that originated in the namesake southern city in 1980.

Under the proposed legislation, those who release false or distorted information on the historic movement face a maximum of five years in prison or a fine of up to 70 million won.


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