(4th LD) National Assembly passes motion calling for dismissal of interior minister
(ATTN: ADDS meeting between ruling party, government in last 3 paras)
By Park Boram
SEOUL, Dec. 11 (Yonhap) -- The opposition-controlled National Assembly on Sunday passed a motion calling for the dismissal of Interior Minister Lee Sang-min over the bungled government response to the deadly Itaewon crowd crush.
The motion won backing from 182 of the 183 lawmakers who cast ballots, with one vote declared invalid.
Members of the ruling People Power Party (PPP), which has opposed the dismissal motion, boycotted the vote and walked out of the chamber en masse before voting began.
The motion, introduced last week by the main opposition Democratic Party (DP), was reported to the National Assembly on Thursday. A vote must take place within 72 hours after a motion is reported at a plenary session or it is automatically scrapped, according to the National Assembly law.
Lee has been under daunting pressure to step down as the head of the interior ministry in charge of supervising the police and the fire agencies to take responsibility for the bungled response to the crowd crush that killed 158 people on Oct. 29.
The motion requires backing from at least 150 lawmakers, and the DP has 169 seats in the 299-member Assembly.
Even though the motion has passed, President Yoon Suk-yeol is widely expected to reject it.
The DP has threatened to impeach the minister if Yoon rejects the dismissal motion.
It marks the second dismissal motion the National Assembly has passed against Yoon's Cabinet members.
In late September, the DP railroaded a dismissal motion against Foreign Minister Park Jin over a set of mishaps during the president's trips to Britain and the United States earlier that month. Yoon rejected the motion at that time.
An official at the presidential office told Yonhap News Agency the office has "no stance" in response to the motion's passage, a reaction that was widely seen as a rejection of it.
The official said there has been no change in Yoon's stance that the dismissal motion runs against the government's ongoing efforts to get to the bottom of the deadly accident.
It normally takes a day for a parliament-approved dismissal motion to land on the president's desk. After being formally notified of the passage, Yoon is expected to officially announce his rejection.
The PPP strongly protested the DP-led passage of the motion, calling it "a thinly disguised trick" to divert the public attention away from an escalating corruption investigation targeting DP Chair Lee Jae-myung.
"Have you thought about why the DP is going ahead with its unjustifiable, ineffective motion? It is meant to take the public attention away from an arrest and punishment of Lee," PPP chief Chung Jin-suk told a party meeting.
The DP, meanwhile, pressed President Yoon to fire the interior minister, threatening it will take further action if he refuses to do so.
"The dismissal motion is an order from the public to hold those responsible to account," DP spokesperson Lee Soo-jin said in a press briefing. "If President Yoon continues to refuse, we will certainly mobilize all parliamentary authorities to hold (Lee) accountable for the tragedy."
Meanwhile, key officials from the PPP, the government and the presidential office held a closed-door meeting after the motion calling for the dismissal of the interior minister was passed, multiple participants of the meeting told Yonhap News Agency.
Among the participants were Chung, the PPP chief, floor leader Joo Ho-young, Prime Minister Han Duck-soo and senior political secretary Lee Jin-bok
They discussed the dismissal motion, an impasse over a budget bill as well as other pending issues, they said.
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