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Opposition accuses gov't of 'administrative coup' over police bureau plan

All News 14:16 July 26, 2022

SEOUL, July 26 (Yonhap) -- Opposition lawmakers held a protest rally in front of the presidential office Tuesday, accusing the government of an "administrative coup" to seize complete control of police through the establishment of a police bureau under the interior ministry.

The rally came a day after Interior Minister Lee Sang-min strongly denounced a recent gathering of senior police officers opposing the "police bureau" plan, even comparing the collective action to a "coup" by disobedient officers.

"It is Interior Minister Lee Sang-min who shows an 'administrative coup'-like thinking," Rep. Park Hong-keun, floor leader of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP), told a press conference held near the presidential office.

"The government is rushing to establish the police bureau as if they are carrying out a military operation. What is it they are afraid of?" he said, holding a banner calling for an end to what they called an attempt at "complete seizure of police."

Rep. Park Hong-keun (C), floor leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, speaks during a press conference opposing the Yoon Seok-yeol government's plan to establish a police bureau under the Interior Ministry, held near the presidential office on July 26, 2022. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

Police officers taking part in the collective action have expressed concern the bureau's oversight would compromise their political neutrality and accountability, while the interior ministry has argued it is necessary, as the police are set to take on more investigative roles from the prosecution.

Earlier Tuesday, President Yoon Suk-yeol expressed deep concerns over the collective protest, saying it could amount to a "serious breach of national discipline."

The DP denounced Yoon, claiming it is actually the president who is breaching national discipline.

"The president called the collective action by the police as breaching national discipline. But who is it that is really breaching national discipline?" Park said. "The president should apologize over prompting turmoil and focus on people's livelihoods."

The establishment of the police bureau was endorsed during a Cabinet meeting later Tuesday.

The ruling People Power Party called for "all possible measures" against the collective action.

"No disobedience whatsoever can be tolerated," Rep. Kweon Seong-dong, acting chair and floor leader of the party, told a party meeting. "Like the military, the police are a public authority with guns."

Kweon urged the government to take stern measures against those involved in the collective protest.

"If the military left their area of duty to take collective action in protest of a policy reform, who would approve of it? The police's disobedience is equivalent to that of the military. It should be charged with the same weight."

Rep. Kweon Seong-dong, acting chair and floor leader of the ruling People Power Party, speaks at a party meeting at the National Assembly on July 26, 2022. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)


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