DP passes motion to impeach interior minister for Itaewon tragedy
The Democratic Party (DP) has passed a motion to impeach Interior and Safety Minister Lee Sang-min for his mishandling of the Itaewon tragedy, where 158 people died in a crowd crush last year.
“As everyone knows, there were many reports warning of a high turnout ahead of the tragedy,” said Park Joo-min, DP lawmaker and head of the impeachment team, on Monday. “As the head of the responsible department, he should have come up with measures.
“He didn’t take the proper measures despite it being his job to do so.”
The People Power Party is crying foul, claiming that the move is a distraction from the legal troubles of Lee Jae-myung, DP chair, for alleged violations of UN sanctions by sending money to North Korea for political purposes, the Daejang-dong development scandal and quid pro quo corporate sponsorship.
The DP lawmaker accused Lee Sang-min of being missing in action and leaving it up to the prime minister to take the lead.
“If the command center had worked properly, we could have reduced the number of victims,” Park added. “And in the aftermath, as a public servant, he should have shown honesty and grace, which many people remember wasn’t shown.”
The DP lawmaker said even if the minister is impeached, the country will not come to a standstill.
“If an impeachment is decided, that vacancy could be covered by the vice minister,” Park said. “It’s not like the minister is a position with a guaranteed term.”
“A government public servant has to quit whenever taking political responsibility,” Park said. “The confusion or losses caused by the impeachment will be limited.”
The DP motion to impeach was passed by 174 lawmakers at around 2:00 p.m. on Monday.
The actual impeachment vote, which requires approval by half the National Assembly, has to take place within 72 hours, or by about 2 p.m. on Thursday.
With more than half the seats in the Assembly, the DP has the votes to impeach without support of other parties.
If the impeachment is voted through, Lee Sang-min will be suspended from his job until the final decision is made by the Constitutional Court.
The DP’s vote came two months after the party proposed to President Yoon Suk Yeol the firing of the minister for the Itaewon crisis, but the presidential office refused to move forward with the firing.
He was the second minister in the Yoon Suk Yeol government to be recommended for firing by the DP.
The first was for Foreign Minister Park Jin after Yoon made comments deemed unseemly while visiting Washington.
“It is not appropriate to demand the government broadly take responsibility,” Yoon said in November last year.
The president said legal responsibility has to be made clear through thorough investigation based on science and that the country must refrain from turning the issue political.
Lee Sang-min’s impeachment motion came as the investigation of Lee Jae-myung continues.
Lee Jae-myung, who is implicated in several cases and has been summoned by the prosecution twice this year for two different investigations, may be called by the prosecution again on Saturday regarding a company paying a North Korean official $8 million to get Lee Jae-myung an invitation to North Korea.
Lee Jae-myung and the DP on Saturday held an outdoor rally, the DPs first in six years. At the rally, Lee Jae-myung accused Yoon’s government of being a dictatorship.
BY LEE HO-JEONG [firstname.lastname@example.org]