No confidence motion set against interior minister
The Democratic Party (DP) submitted a no-confidence motion against Interior Minister Lee Sang-min to a plenary session of the National Assembly Thursday, setting the stage for a floor vote on Friday.
The no-confidence motion calls for Lee’s removal to take responsibility for the inadequate public safety measures that led to the death of 158 people in a Halloween crowd crush in Itaewon in Yongsan District, central Seoul.
Speaker Kim Jin-pyo announced Thursday afternoon that the motion had been included the legislative agenda and called on representatives from the DP and the rival People Power Party (PPP) to “negotiate a schedule so that views on this item can be presented” before a vote proceeds.
According to the National Assembly Act, a bill calling for the dismissal of a Cabinet minister must be voted on between 24 and 72 hours after it has been presented to the floor.
The no-confidence motion against Lee was filed on Nov. 30, but was delayed from being presented for a vote as Kim refused to convene a plenary session of the National Assembly and urged the two parties to compromise.
The DP plans to push the no-confidence motion through the National Assembly before it goes into recess at the end of Friday.
The party holds a supermajority of 169 seats in the 300-member National Assembly — more than one-third of lawmakers required to put the bill to a vote and one-half of lawmakers to pass it.
The no-confidence motion, which was approved by all DP lawmakers, calls for Lee to “take responsibility for abandoning his duties as the chief of the country’s disaster and safety management efforts, and for failing to protect the lives and safety of the people.”
In the bill, the DP also claims that language used by Lee and members of President Yoon Suk-yeol’s administration shows that Lee was trying to avoid blame for the tragedy.
“Minister Lee hastily tried to minimize the nature and significance of the tragedy by referring to the [Itaewon] disaster as an ‘accident’ and victims as ‘the dead,’ and also focused on shirking his ministerial duties by making the excuse that there is no official response outlined in administrative manuals for a [mass gathering] event without an organizer,” the motion said.
The presidential office and the PPP have opposed calls for Lee’s dismissal, saying that the interior minister should not be held responsible for the tragedy while a special counsel probe established by the parliament and a criminal investigation of the tragedy by the police are ongoing.
The PPP has signaled it could boycott the special counsel probe, which was established after bipartisan wrangling last month, if the DP railroads the bill through the parliament.
The no-confidence motion, while legally non-binding, has added to the acrimony between the parties as they struggle to agree on next year’s government budget before the National Assembly goes into recess.
PPP floor leader Joo Ho-young and his DP counterpart Park Hong-keun met for negotiations Thursday morning that were mediated by Speaker Kim, but the talks ended after just one hour with the two sides no closer to an agreement.
In public remarks after the meeting, Joo called on the DP to “cooperate so that the new administration can function properly in difficult times,” but Park said that to “go along with the government is to forfeit the National Assembly’s constitutional right to review budget proposals.”
According to party officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to the JoongAng Ilbo, the main points of disagreement between the rival parties is the budget allocation for the presidential office relocation and additional budget items proposed by DP leader Lee Jae-myung.
BY MICHAEL LEE [email@example.com]