|National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-seug, center, poses with Rep. Kweon Seong-dong, left, floor leader of the main opposition conservative People Power Party and Rep. Park Hong-keun, right, floor leader of the ruling liberal Democratic Party of Korea, ahead of a meeting to discuss the ruling party's prosecutorial reform bills at the National Assembly on Seoul's Yeouido, Wednesday. Joint Press Corps|
By Jung Da-min
The main opposition conservative People Power Party (PPP) vowed to continue fighting in order to frustrate the ruling Democratic Party of Korea(DPK)'s push to pass the controversial prosecutorial bill, with the clock ticking for the vote in the National Assembly. On Wednesday, the PPP warned of the use of a filibuster to prevent the passage of the bill.
The floor leaders of the two parties sat down in a meeting arranged by National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-seug in hopes of narrowing their differences.
The DPK aims to pass the reform bill at the plenary session of the National Assembly before the last Cabinet meeting of the outgoing Moon Jae-in government, slated for May 3. The PPP, however, is strongly opposing the DPK's move, while trying to stop or at least delay the passage of the bill, so that the soon to be president, Yoon Suk-yeol, who will take office on May 10, will be able to exercise his veto against it.
Wednesday's meeting between floor leaders, Rep. Park Hong-keun of the DPK and Rep. Kweon Seong-dong of the PPP, did not yield any progress, as the two sides continue to disagree.
Earlier in the day, Kweon started a sit-in protest in front of the plenary chamber together with other PPP lawmakers. "We have started a sit-in protest to let people know that the reform bills the DPK is trying to push ahead with, are unjust and harmful to the people," Kweon said. "If DPK heavyweights were confident about themselves, in that they are without any corruption allegations, they would not push for the prosecutorial reform bills when facing strong opposition from people."
DPK floor leader Park blamed Kweon for breaking their earlier agreement over Speaker Park's compromise made last Friday. "It is an unprecedented case that the PPP broke the agreement it signed in front of the people," Park said. "I make it clear that there will be no more dialogue nor compromise if PPP floor leader Kweon doesn't apologize to the people and vow to implement the compromise version."
The floor leaders' meeting came less than a week after they had initially signed a compromise version of the bill proposed by Speaker Park, last Friday. But the PPP side broke the agreement just three days later after receiving strong objections from within and outside of their party.
According to the compromise version of the reform bill, the prosecution will have the power to investigate crimes related to the economy and corruption only, while the police will investigate other crimes. Currently, the prosecution has the power to investigate crimes in six categories including corruption, the economy, public officials, elections, defense industry projects and major catastrophes.
As criticism grew over the issue of elections being excluded from prosecutorial investigation, due to the fact that it would give certain unfair privileges to the political class, the DPK decided on Tuesday to accept another proposal by the minor opposition liberal Justice Party to maintain the category until the end of this year. However, the liberal bloc, which has been pushing for prosecutorial reform over the past five years under the Moon government, is aiming to ultimately remove the prosecution's investigative powers.
The DPK unilaterally passed two related bills at the Legislation and Judiciary Committee early on Wednesday morning, as the committee meeting which was held Wednesday continued past midnight, with PPP members staging rallies to protest the bills.