Saenuri to ditch justice minister
The ruling Saenuri Party said Thursday that it would ask President Lee Myung-bak to dismiss Justice Minister Kwon Jae-in over “unsatisfactory” investigations into illegal surveillance and presidential retirement home scandals.
In an interview, Rep. Hong Il-pyo, a spokesman of the ruling party, said his party would be willing to cooperate with the main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) to seek the dismissal when the National Assembly convenes.
“Minister Kwon served as senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, when the surveillance of politicians, citizens and business tycoons was underway and then was in charge when prosecutors investigated the case,” said the lawmaker. “Considering this, it will be difficult for him to avoid political responsibility.”
Hong’s remarks were construed as alleging that Minister Kwon, to some extent, was linked with the surveillance case.
He made the comments two days after the DUP submitted a resolution calling for the dismissal of the justice minister to the National Assembly.
Earlier, Jang Jin-soo, a former official of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) who was indicted for destroying files on the surveillance, disclosed he was ordered to do so by an official working for the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs.
If the ruling party joins hand with the DUP in calling on President Lee to fire the minister, the main opposition party plans to replace the resolution with a joint one.
If the bipartisan motion is submitted to the National Assembly, lawmakers must vote on the measure within 72 hours. To be passed, half of the 300-member National Assembly must participate in the voting and half of those who cast their votes must approve it.
President Lee can exercise a veto over the approved measure. Previously, there were five times such a measure was approved in the legislature, but no sitting president has ever vetoed them.
Rep. Park Young-sun of the DUP urged Lee to fire Kwon.
“I understand that prosecutors displayed frustrations about proper investigations (about the surveillance and presidential retirement home cases) as Kwon was in charge of the justice ministry,” Park said in an interview.
“Thus, as long as Kwon oversees the ministry, it’s going to be nearly impossible for the prosecution to conduct a thorough and fair investigation into the surveillance case.”
The DUP called for reinvestigation into the case by the legislature Wednesday when the prosecution concluded the investigation into the surveillance case.
According to the investigation results, the PMO illegally monitored prominent politicians, business moguls, and government officials.
Big names on the surveillance list included Supreme Court Chief Justice Lee Yong-hoon, Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Kun-hee and Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon.