DP threatens interior minister with impeachment
The Democratic Party (DP) kept to its demand Monday that President Yoon Suk-yeol dismiss the interior minister over the Itaewon crowd crush — or face an impeachment or no-confidence motion.
Last Friday, DP floor leader Park Hong-keun presented Yoon with an ultimatum to sack Lee Sang-min to hold him accountable for inadequate public safety measures that led to the death of 158 people in a Halloween celebration in Itaewon in Yongsan District, central Seoul.
On Monday, Park warned Yoon that the DP, which holds a supermajority of 169 seats in the 300-member National Assembly, would take action to punish Lee if Yoon refused to.
“Choose now between the people and Interior Minister Lee Sang-min,” Park said at a meeting of the DP’s executive committee, noting that time had run out on his ultimatum.
“Stop testing the people’s patience and immediately sack Minister Lee.”
If Yoon does not comply with the demand, the National Assembly will take action starting Tuesday, Park said. That appeared to be a threat to impeach or pass a no-confidence motion against Lee.
The embattled interior minister is already widely disliked by the DP and the National Police Agency for spearheading the opening of a ministerial bureau in August to oversee the police, known as the Police Bureau. It is responsible for key policies and regulations related to the police and recommending candidates for senior police positions.
Police officials and rank-and-file officers vehemently protested the Police Bureau’s establishment, arguing that it would damage the National Police Agency’s (NPA) political independence and neutrality.
According to a survey conducted by the civil servants’ labor union, Lee is also unpopular among government workers, with 83.4 percent of 38,000 surveyed saying he should be removed from his post for the Itaewon tragedy.
But People Power Party (PPP) floor leader Joo Ho-young blasted the DP’s ultimatum, saying removing Lee would undermine a bipartisan parliamentary investigation aimed at determining who is responsible for the tragedy.
PPP lawmakers on the committee that will oversee the parliamentary probe have also denounced the demand, saying they could quit the committee if the DP pushes ahead with removing Lee from office.
If the DP decides to put forth a no-confidence or impeachment motion, it could pass as early as a plenary session scheduled for Thursday or Friday.
Either kind of motion requires support from one-third of lawmakers to be put to a vote and the approval of one-half of lawmakers to be passed.
But even if lawmakers decide to pass an impeachment motion instead of a non-binding no-confidence motion, there is no guarantee that Lee would be removed from office.
Once an impeachment motion is passed by the National Assembly, the case is referred to the Constitutional Court for a final decision.
The removal of a sitting minister is subject to the requirement of proof that the official in question violated the Constitution or law while serving in their post.
BY MICHAEL LEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]