(2nd LD) DP submits impeachment motion against interior minister over Itaewon tragedy
(ATTN: UPDATES headline, lead, details with submission of impeachment motion; ADDS photo)
By Lee Minji
SEOUL, Feb. 6 (Yonhap) -- The main opposition Democratic Party (DP) and two minor parties introduced an impeachment motion against the interior minister Monday over the government's alleged bungled response to the Itaewon crowd crush.
National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin-pyo told a plenary meeting that an impeachment motion signed by DP floor leader Park Hong-keun, minor progressive Justice Party floor leader Lee Eun-ju, Basic Income Party Rep. Yong Hye-in and 173 other lawmakers has been submitted.
The DP, which holds a majority in parliament, plans to pass the motion Wednesday.
The DP had called on President Yoon Suk Yeol to fire Interior Minister Lee Sang-min, railroading a dismissal motion against Lee in December to hold him responsible for the Oct. 29 tragedy that killed 159 people.
The presidential office rejected the motion, saying whether to fire Lee should be considered after probes into the crowd crush are completed. Lee himself has also refused to step down.
"Even though a massive tragedy happened that claimed the lives of 159 innocent people, no one in the government has apologized or stepped down in a responsible manner," DP floor leader Park Hong-keun said after the general meeting of party lawmakers.
"With the parliamentary and police probes now complete, what is only left is for Minister Lee to take responsibility," he said. "But the president, the prosecution, the government and the ruling party appear to think that Minister Lee is in an area of extraterritoriality and sacrosanctity."
The impeachment motion requires the consent of one-third of National Assembly members to be tabled and half of lawmakers to be approved. The DP is expected to railroad it as the party holds a majority in parliament.
The move, however, is expected to deepen tensions between the ruling and main opposition parties.
The ruling People Power Party (PPP) denounced the impeachment motion as an attempt to shield opposition leader Lee Jae-myung who is under several corruption investigations.
PPP leader Chung Jin-suk slammed the move, claiming the requirements for an impeachment motion have not been met as the interior minister has not violated law.
Compared with a dismissal motion, an impeachment requires more concrete proof that the official in question has violated the Constitution or law in serving his or her role. Once it is passed by parliament, the case is referred to the Constitutional Court for the final decision.
After wrapping up an investigation last month, police decided not to hold any officials from the interior ministry, the Seoul city government or the national police agency accountable for the deadly accident, concluding those bodies are not legally responsible for crowd control duties.
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