Wednesday, June 12, 2024

(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on May 3)

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Why the rush to appoint a special prosecutor?

The majority Democratic Party (DP) on Thursday submitted a special act on investigating the suspicious death of a Marine on a rescue mission last year after lawmakers of the governing People Power Party (PPP) left the main hall of the National Assembly. The opposition’s unilateral push for the special act even after a bilateral agreement to revise and pass another special act on revisiting the Itaewon tragedy is disappointing.

Even if the first special act is put to a vote, it will certainly be vetoed by President Yoon Suk Yeol, not to mention the zero possibility of the special act passing the threshold of more than 200 votes in the 300-member legislature. The DP’s rush to pass the special act before the current 21st Assembly expires on May 29 is apparently aimed at offending the conservative government till the last minute. It would be better to restart the debate in the next legislature which will open on May 30.

The death of the Marine has been investigated by the police and the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO) — for the possibility of accidental homicide and exercising pressure over the investigation, respectively. The National Assembly has rarely passed such special acts before the enforcement agency finished its investigation. In fact, the CIO has been speeding up its investigation of the case since its new chief was appointed last month, as seen in its summons of a legal officer in the Ministry of National Defense and the acting head of the military investigation headquarters. The CIO also plans to bring in the commander of the Marine Corps. over the weekend.

The PPP has pledged to appoint an independent counsel if the ongoing investigations by the police and the CIO fall short of its expectations. The governing party cannot ignore the deepening suspicions about the puzzling death of the Marine. Given such circumstances, the DP shouldn’t have rushed to submit the special act.

The PPP also needs to consider discussing the special act as soon as the police and the CIO complete their investigation. A survey shows an overwhelming majority of people (67 percent) in support of putting the special act to a vote before the current term of the legislature is over. The PPP must not dismiss the strong public demand for clearing up all suspicions over the baffling death of the soldier. If the governing party resorts to a nonsensical scheme to not offend the president, it will prompt massive resistance from people.

The DP needs to ease up on its demand for a special prosecutor’s press briefings on the proceedings of investigation, which is stipulated in the special act. Special prosecutors’ duty is to find the truth behind such tragedies, not to report the details of their investigation.

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