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(LEAD) Nat'l Assembly passes contentious bill on new investigative organ amid opposition protests

All News 15:18 December 10, 2020

(ATTN: RECASTS headline; UPDATES with voting result in paras 1-2, 6; ADDS photos)

SEOUL, Dec. 10 (Yonhap) -- The National Assembly passed a contentious bill Thursday that would expedite the launch of a new investigative body handling high-profile corruption cases amid fierce protest from conservative opposition lawmakers.

The revision bill on the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO) law passed a plenary session in a 187-99 vote. One lawmaker abstained.

The proposal was tabled at the last plenary meeting of the regular parliamentary session Wednesday, but the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) thwarted parliamentary voting on it by launching a filibuster.

The bill aims to remove veto power held by the two PPP-side members of the seven-person committee entrusted to select candidates for the inaugural chief of the CIO.

Due to their veto, the committee failed to reach an agreement in its three rounds of meetings last month, stalling the launch of the investigative organ championed by President Moon Jae-in and the ruling Democratic Party (DP).

As National Assembly Speaker Rep. Park Byeong-seug banged the gavel to announce the bill's passage, PPP lawmakers erupted into united chanting in protest, while ruling party representatives welcomed it with wild clapping.

National Assembly Speaker Rep. Park Byeong-seug bangs the gavel during a plenary session on Dec. 10, 2020. (Yonhap)

After processing the bill at the plenary session, the National Assembly, where the DP holds a majority, plans to table another contentious bill -- a revision to the National Intelligence Service Korea Act.

But voting on the bill is again expected to be delayed by the PPP planning to launch another round of filibuster. The bill aims to relocate the state spy agency's authority to conduct anti-communist investigations to the police, in a bid to block its meddling in domestic politics.

The two bills, combined with a revision to the national police act, which passed the assembly earlier this week, will back up Moon's push to reform so-called power institutions including the state prosecution service, if they finally win a parliamentary nod.

One more contentious bill on prohibiting the launch of anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the inter-Korean border also remains pending at the assembly due to opposition protests.

The DP plans to first push the spy agency bill through the National Assembly on Friday, as it can break a filibuster with 180 votes, 24 hours after it began.

People Party Power lawmakers stage a sit-in protest at the National Assembly on Dec. 10, 2020. (Yonhap)


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