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Korea's main opposition party tables motion to dismiss FM

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Main opposition Democratic Party of Korea senior deputy floor leader Rep. Wi Seong-gon, center, holds a motion requesting President Yoon Suk-yeol impeach Minister of Foreign Affairs Park Jin, after the party unanimously decided to table the motion at the National Assembly, Tuesday. / Yonhap
Main opposition Democratic Party of Korea senior deputy floor leader Rep. Wi Seong-gon, center, holds a motion requesting President Yoon Suk-yeol impeach Minister of Foreign Affairs Park Jin, after the party unanimously decided to table the motion at the National Assembly, Tuesday. / Yonhap

Non-binding request comes as pressure on Yoon

By Nam Hyun-woo

Foreign Minister Park Jin / Korea Times photo by Oh Dae-keun
Foreign Minister Park Jin / Korea Times photo by Oh Dae-keun
The main opposition Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) tabled a motion on Tuesday requesting President Yoon Suk-yeol to impeach Minister of Foreign Affairs Park Jin over apparent diplomatic gaffes and setbacks during Yoon's overseas trip last week.

Since the motion is a non-binding request which Yoon can dismiss, chances are slim for the foreign minister to leave his office in disgrace this time. However, the DPK, which holds a majority in the National Assembly, is seeking to pass the bill to double its pressure on the presidential office and the ruling bloc.

During a general meeting of its lawmakers, the DPK decided to table the motion requesting Minister Park's impeachment.

"We decided to table the motion in the name of all 169 DPK lawmakers," DPK senior deputy floor leader Rep. Wi Seong-gon said. "It was a unanimous decision, and it will be passed in a plenary session of the Assembly on Thursday."

Since the DPK holds a majority of the 300-seat Assembly, the party can table and approve bills unilaterally.

The move came after Yoon's trip to the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada last week, was mired in a string of controversies. During the trip, he failed to attend late Queen Elizabeth II's lying-in-state in London and had only a 48-second chat with U.S. President Joe Biden instead of a formal summit as had been announced by the presidential office.

Yoon also took flak for his meeting with Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, as Tokyo had been denying Seoul's announcement that the two governments' agreement to hold a summit. Yoon finally met with Kishida for what the Japanese government described as an "informal" talk.

Further controversy was stirred as Yoon was caught on a hot mic in what could be heard as a profanity-laden denouncement of the U.S. Congress at a fundraising event in New York. Amid the controversy, Yoon told reporters, Monday, that such "false reports" were "undermining the alliance" with the U.S.

Citing these events, the DPK has been condemning the trip as "a diplomatic disaster" urging the president to replace his foreign affairs team, including the minister.

President Yoon Suk-yeol speaks during a Cabinet meeting at the Government Complex in Sejong, Tuesday. Yonhap
President Yoon Suk-yeol speaks during a Cabinet meeting at the Government Complex in Sejong, Tuesday. Yonhap
Article 63 of the Constitution states that the National Assembly may pass "a recommendation" requesting the president to remove the prime minister or Cabinet members. However, this is a non-binding motion, and there have been cases in which a president has dismissed such a motion.

So far, there have been six cases in which the National Assembly has passed a motion on impeaching a minister. The most recent case was in September 2016, when then-President Park Geun-hye dismissed a motion on removing then Agriculture Minister Kim Jae-soo from office.

Other than Kim's case, however, five other ministers had to leave their offices after the motions on their resignation passed in the Assembly. Given these precedents, the DPK expects that the motion on Park will weigh heavily on the presidential office and the ruling People Power Party (PPP).

"It is about asking Minister Park, as the head of the ministry which is responsible for the worst diplomatic disaster, to take responsibility," DPK floor leader Rep. Park Hong-keun said.

DPK Rep. Lee Soo-jin said presidential aides of National Security Office Director Kim Sung-han, first deputy director Kim Tae-hyo and senior presidential secretary for public relations Kim Eun-hye should appear at the National Assembly's House Steering Committee to answer questions.

"The DPK and the PPP began negotiations on holding a House Steering Committee meeting on Friday, but the PPP has not answered yet," Lee said.

Following the DPK's efforts to oust him, Foreign Minister Park said he will continue serving his role for Korea's interest.

"The international diplomatic and security environment surrounding us (Korea) is very grave," Park said in a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "Against this backdrop, it is regrettable that the main opposition party is exploiting its majority to have the country's diplomacy, which is the Maginot Line of the national interest, as a subject of partisan conflict."

He added, "The national interest is bound to be impaired if diplomacy becomes a subject of partisan conflict. As the minister of foreign affairs, I will continue serving my role stably for the sake of the people and the national interest."

Against this backdrop, the two parties clashed in a series of legislative events on Tuesday. The confirmation hearing for the health minister candidate was adjourned as DPK lawmakers refused to proceed until Yoon apologizes for his remarks. A House Steering Committee meeting on Tuesday also adjourned as lawmakers exchanged salvoes over Yoon's trip.


Nam Hyun-woo namhw@koreatimes.co.kr


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