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(LEAD) Main opposition tables dismissal motion for interior minister over Itaewon tragedy

Politics 17:01 November 30, 2022

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; UPDATES throughout with latest info)

SEOUL, Nov. 30 (Yonhap) -- The main opposition Democratic Party (DP) tabled a motion Wednesday calling for the dismissal of Interior Minister Lee Sang-min to hold him accountable for the bungled emergency response to the deadly crowd crush in Seoul last month.

The DP submitted the motion to pass it through the National Assembly's plenary session Friday. The DP has the power to unilaterally pass the motion, as it holds 169 out of 299 parliamentary seats.

If President Yoon Suk-yeol rejects the demand, the DP will table a stronger impeachment motion against the interior minister next week, the DP floor leader Park Hong-geun told reporters.

Lee has been facing criticism that his ministry botched the response to the crowd surge that killed at least 158 Halloween partygoers in Seoul's Itaewon district on the night of Oct. 29.

Park said the DP is offering the president and the interior minister a "last chance" to solve the problem they are responsible for by putting forward a dismissal motion first.

"Minister Lee clearly committed a blunder as the government official responsible for preventing and managing disasters," Park said, adding that the parliamentary investigation into the Itaewon tragedy cannot be conducted fairly while Lee, who oversees the police and fire agency, holds his position.

Since its launch last week, a non-partisan special parliamentary committee has been preparing to hold hearings and other investigative activities into the tragedy.

The ruling People Power Party (PPP), however, protested against the DP's decision.

"There is no reason to conduct a parliamentary probe if the DP pushes for Lee's dismissal even before the probe starts," PPP floor leader Joo Ho-young said, noting Lee should be held accountable if the parliamentary investigation proves his fault in the case.

The interior ministry is included in the list of government agencies subject to the investigation, along with the state affairs monitoring team of the presidential office, the prime minister's office, the police and the fire agency.

The PPP was initially against the parliamentary investigation plan, saying it could hamper ongoing police investigations into the case and evolve into a political fight, but it decided to participate in the probe on the condition that the Assembly passes the national budget first.

Interior Minister Lee Sang-min speaks at an emergency response meeting held at a government complex in central Seoul on Nov. 30, 2022. (Yonhap)

Interior Minister Lee Sang-min speaks at an emergency response meeting held at a government complex in central Seoul on Nov. 30, 2022. (Yonhap)


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