Opposition Party Taking Steps to Impeach Prime Minister Lee Wan Koo

D-Bo , April 20, 2015, 9:52 a.m.

The main opposition party said Monday it will take steps to impeach Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo under growing bribery suspicions. The move by the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) came amid snowballing suspicion that Lee accepted 30 million won (US$27,700) from a businessman who killed himself earlier this month.

"Citizens cannot wait any more," Moon Jae-in, the NPAD leader said during the party's senior members' meeting in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province. "Our party will seek a dismissal proposal bill to secure a fair investigation and minimize an administration vacuum."     The prime minister is in no position to carry out normal official duties, Moon said, adding it would be unprecedented if Lee undergoes a prosecution probe in his capacity as a sitting prime minister.

The NPAD will soon hold a meeting to decide on the impeachment action, the opposition party leader said, calling for the ruling Saenuri Party's cooperation in setting a parliamentary schedule to process the motion.  Despite calls for his resignation from the opposition bloc as well as some ruling party members, the prime minister has insisted he will retain the second-highest official job, denying the bribery allegations.

President Park Geun-hye has said she will make a decision on Lee's fate after returning home from her 12-day trip to South America early next week.  The Park administration and the ruling party have been roiled in the bribery scandal which erupted earlier this month when Sung Wan-jong, the former head of a mid-size construction firm, left a list of heavyweight politicians whom, Sung claimed, he has given money. Sung hanged himself amid a widening prosecution investigation into embezzlement allegations.

A prosecution probe is underway over the bribery scandal, which also involves Park's former and incumbent chief secretaries and ruling party bigwigs.  The scandal comes to the fore as the parties are campaigning for parliamentary by-elections slated for April 29 where four seats are up for grabs.  A group of seven ruling party lawmakers pressured the prime minister to step down.

"Prime Minister Lee should file for resignation even before any evidence comes out from the judiciary because he is heavily burdening the president's state management and the ruling party's reform drive," Rep. Ha Tae-keung said during a morning meeting of the first- and second-term lawmakers.

The parliament can initiate an impeachment motion against a prime minister if one-third of the lawmakers endorse it. The impeachment proceedings would be referred to the Constitutional Court if half of the 294-strong National Assembly votes in favor.  Eight impeachment bills have been proposed against prime ministers, but none of them passed through the National Assembly.

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