South Korean Prime Minister Faces Impeachment Proceedings Amid Bribery Scandal

kpopluv, April 15, 2015, 7:32 a.m.

A senior main opposition party lawmaker said Wednesday he will seek to impeach Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo if the second-highest official refuses to resign from the post despite growing bribery allegations.  "If Prime Minister Lee does not step down voluntarily, (I) will review impeachment based on the Constitution," Rep. Jung Chung-rai of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) said in a statement.

The move comes as pressure mounts on the embattled prime minister over the snowballing bribery scandal involving a businessman who killed himself last week.  In a memo and media interview before his suicide, Sung Wan-jong, a former head of a mid-size construction firm, claimed that he gave up to several millions of dollars to eight heavyweight politicians, mostly close aides to President Park Geun-hye.

The prime minister is accused of accepting 30 million won (US$27,000) in cash from Sung while Lee was running for a parliamentary seat in April 2013.  Despite Lee's strong denial of the bribery allegations, the ruling and opposition parties stepped up calls for his resignation as the prosecution launched its investigation into the scandal.

In the statement, Jung claimed that Lee is trying to hold onto the prime minister position to fend off the prosecution's broadening investigation.  There would be enough legal grounds for an impeachment if Lee's denial of the suspected bribery is found to be false because lying in a parliamentary session constitutes perjury, Jung said in the statement.

The parliament can initiate an impeachment motion against a prime minister if one-third of the lawmakers endorse it. The impeachment proceedings are referred to the Constitutional Court if half of the 294-strong National Assembly votes in favor.  So far, no South Korean prime minister has been impeached.


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