National Assembly set to kick off annual audit of gov’t agencies

SEOUL-- The National Assembly is set to launch its annual audit of government agencies Wednesday amid heightened partisan tensions over corruption scandals involving the justice minister's family.

Fourteen of 17 parliamentary standing committees will conduct the 20-day audit of 788 government organizations until Oct. 21, according to assembly officials.

The remaining three panels -- the House Steering Committee, the Intelligence Committee, and the Gender Equality and Family Committee -- will separately audit performances of related agencies from Oct. 23-Nov. 6.

The monthslong controversy over Justice Minister Cho Kuk is expected to become the major bone of contention during the audit session.

Cho, who was appointed Sept. 9, has been at the center of bitter political wrangling as prosecutors are looking into allegations of corruption involving his family, including his wife's alleged forgery of a school award.

The row has emerged as an explosive political issue ahead of parliamentary elections set for next April.

During the audit session, the ruling Democratic Party (DP) plans to highlight the need to reform the prosecution, taking issue with what it calls the elite investigative agency's excessive probe into the allegations.

Last weekend, supporters of Cho and the ruling bloc held a massive candlelight vigil, stressing the need to reform the prosecution to guarantee political neutrality.

To fend off political attacks on the corruption scandals, the ruling party plans to stress the need for legislative efforts to improve people's livelihoods.

Meanwhile, the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) and the minor opposition Bareunmirae Party are pushing for a drive to impeach the minister.

Allegations of abuse of power were raised after Cho revealed Thursday that he spoke by telephone with a chief prosecutor who was at the scene of a raid on Cho's residence on Sept. 23.

The minister rebutted claims that he sought to influence the probe, saying he asked for the raid to be conducted swiftly in consideration of the health of his wife.

The conservative parties are considering seeking a motion that proposes President Moon Jae-in dismiss Cho or a parliamentary impeachment of the minister.

On the foreign and security affairs front, rival parties are expected to argue over North Korea's denuclearization talks with the United States and Japan's export curbs against South Korea. Concerns about the potential spread of African swine fever also will be a major topic during the audit session.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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