Nat’l Assembly passes DPK-backed special counsel probe bill into Marine’s death

Members of the ruling People Power Party leave the chamber during a plenary session at the National Assembly in Seoul, Thursday, to protest a vote on a special counsel probe bill into the death of a Marine last year. The legislation, pushed by the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea, was approved by 168 lawmakers, mostly from the majority-holding DPK. Yonhap

The main opposition-controlled National Assembly railroaded a contentious bill, Thursday, calling for a special counsel probe into allegations surrounding the death of a Marine, despite fierce protests from the ruling party.The passage of this bill is expected to escalate conflicts between the rival parties, especially after they showed signs of cooperation the previous day by agreeing on another bill seeking a probe into the 2022 Itaewon crowd crush, which resulted in 159 deaths.President Yoon Suk Yeol is also expected to exercise his veto power for the special counsel probe bill, which targets the government’s alleged interference in the military’s investigation into the death of Marine Cpl. Chae Su-geun during a flood rescue operation.During the plenary session, the bill was unilaterally approved by all 168 opposition lawmakers, including those from the majority-holding Democratic Party of Korea (DPK).Members of the ruling People Power Party (PPP) boycotted the ballot and walked out of the chamber en masse before the voting began.The bill aims to initiate an investigation into the government’s alleged interference in the military’s investigation into Chae’s death, which occurred during a search and rescue operation in a flooded area in July 2023. The DPK speculates that Yoon’s office might have exerted pressure during the Marine Corps’ internal probe.

Hours before the plenary session, rival parties engaged in last-minute talks involving Rep. Yun Jae-ok, the acting leader of the PPP, Rep. Hong Ik-pyo, the floor leader of the DPK, and Assembly Speaker Kim Jin-pyo, in an attempt to reach a compromise on the bill. However, they failed to reach an agreement.Kim tabled the motion during the plenary session, which the PPP viewed as a violation of the agreed understanding.”Our party agreed to hold a plenary session today upon bipartisan agreement to pass the Itaewon special probe bill. But without any prior notice, the speaker unilaterally tabled the bill and helped the legislative frenzy of the opposition party. We are very disappointed,” Yun told reporters shortly after leaving the chamber.Yun noted that the party will consider requesting the president to veto the bill.The presidential office condemned the DPK for dampening public expectations on bipartisan cooperation, labeling its actions as politically motivated rather than being genuinely concerned about the Marine’s death.”The presidential office will take stern response measures to the unilateral passage of the bill, as concerns are rising that it may plunge the society into chaos,” presidential chief of staff Chung Jin-suk said, hinting at the possibilty that Yoon may exercise his veto power.Chung also emphasized that the ongoing investigation by the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO) into Chae’s death should take priority before considering the special counsel probe.Meanwhile, in a separate vote, the Assembly passed a special act mandating a new probe into the Itaewon crowd crush, following a bipartisan compromise on the controversial provisions.The legislation comes about a year and seven months after the deadly incident occurred 스포츠토토존 in Seoul’s Itaewon on Halloween weekend of 2022, and three months after the president vetoed the initial bill.

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