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(LEAD) Opposition parties submit request for parliamentary probe into Itaewon tragedy

All News 16:47 November 09, 2022

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; UPDATES throughout with party leaders' quotes, photos)
By Lee Minji

SEOUL, Nov. 9 (Yonhap) -- The main opposition Democratic Party (DP) and two minor progressive parties submitted a joint request Wednesday for a parliamentary investigation into the Itaewon crowd crush despite opposition from the ruling party.

The DP, the Justice Party (JP) and the Basic Income Party submitted the request to the National Assembly's Bills Division on Wednesday afternoon, with an aim to have the request reported at a parliamentary plenary session scheduled for Thursday.

"We should clearly determine where the responsibility lies and come up with measures to prevent a recurrence by looking thoroughly into the accident, including its cause and measures taken before or after the tragedy," the parties said in the request sponsored by 181 lawmakers.

The parties called for forming an 18-member special committee to oversee the probe and look into whether measures by government agencies were appropriate and whether there were attempts to minimize or cover up the tragedy.

Rep. Yong Hye-in (L) of the Basic Income Party, Rep. Wi Seong-gon (C) of the Democratic Party and Rep. Jang Hye-yeong of the Justice Party submit a joint request to open a parliamentary probe into the Itaewon crowd crush at the National Assembly on Nov. 9, 2022. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

Rep. Yong Hye-in (L) of the Basic Income Party, Rep. Wi Seong-gon (C) of the Democratic Party and Rep. Jang Hye-yeong of the Justice Party submit a joint request to open a parliamentary probe into the Itaewon crowd crush at the National Assembly on Nov. 9, 2022. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

Once the request is reported at a plenary session, the National Assembly speaker can form a special committee in charge of a probe through discussions with party leaders. The committee is then required to come up with an investigation plan that should be approved at a plenary session.

The three parties plan to approve the investigation plan on Nov. 24.

Opposition parties have been pushing to launch the parliamentary investigation, accusing the government of mishandling the tragedy following revelations that the police snubbed a series of emergency calls warning against overcrowding in Itaewon that day.

The crowd surge killed at least 156 Halloween partygoers in Seoul's entertainment district of Itaewon on Oct. 29, marking the nation's worst disaster since the 2014 Sewol ferry sinking that killed 304 people, mostly high school students.

The DP again urged the ruling People Power Party (PPP) to take part in the parliamentary probe but hinted at pushing ahead without its consent in the case the PPP does not budge.

"We will call on the ruling party to participate, but if it continues to reject, we cannot help but follow procedures written in law," DP floor leader Park Hong-keun said. "We cannot just wait when the people and victims are demanding it."

"Boycotting the parliamentary probe is equivalent to boycotting the people and the truth," Park said, pressing the ruling party.

The PPP reaffirmed its earlier rejection of the parliamentary probe, claiming a parliamentary probe should come after ongoing investigations.

"We believe that a swift compulsory investigation should be the principle and is the most effective means. Our stance is that a legally unbinding parliamentary probe only hinders ongoing probes and prompts political strife," PPP floor leader Joo Ho-young said.

"A parliamentary probe should be conducted in the case there are shortfalls with ongoing probes. Since they are smoothly proceeding, there seem to be motivations in proposing a parliamentary probe now."

Rep. Park Hong-keun, floor leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, speaks during a news conference at the National Assembly on Nov. 9, 2022, on requesting a parliamentary probe over the Itaewon crowd crush. (Yonhap)

Rep. Park Hong-keun, floor leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, speaks during a news conference at the National Assembly on Nov. 9, 2022, on requesting a parliamentary probe over the Itaewon crowd crush. (Yonhap)

mlee@yna.co.kr
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