Opposition parties agree to submit joint bill for independent probe into opinion rigging scandal

SEOUL, Three opposition parties agreed Monday to submit a joint bill to mandate an independent counsel probe into a burgeoning opinion rigging scandal involving an influential blogger with alleged ties to a ruling party lawmaker.

The parties said that should the ruling Democratic Party accept their proposal for the probe, they would normalize the parliament that has been crippled by partisan squabbles over the scandal, a set of disputed bills and other issues.

"Based on our understanding that there are limits in the abilities of the police and prosecution to fulfill their responsibilities to verify the truth, we have shared the view that introducing a special prosecutor probe free from political influence is inevitable," they said in a statement.

The leaders and floor chiefs of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, Bareunmirae Party and Party for Democracy and Peace huddled in morning talks to discuss their cooperation in addressing the scandal and other legislative affairs.

The parties have criticized the ongoing probe by the police as "too slow and lenient" in contrast to what they call "unsparing probes" the authorities had carried out against opposition party members embroiled in alleged corruption.

The ruling party has remained negative about the independent counsel probe, saying that the parties should wait until the police wrap up their probe and release its results. The party views the demand for the special probe as a political offensive ahead of the June local elections.

"If the probe by the authorities is deemed insufficient, we could consider accepting the special prosecutor probe," Park Hong-geun, the party's vice floor leader, told reporters, stressing that parliamentary operations must be brought back to normalcy "without conditions."

Woo Won-shik, the party's floor leader, said later that the party decided to leave the issue of whether to accept the special probe to the party leadership after the police's probe is completed.

The opposition parties also agreed to jointly request a separate parliamentary probe into the scandal. But, they agreed to make "maximum" efforts to refrain from political fights this week ahead of the inter-Korean summit set to take place in the border truce village of Panmunjom on Friday.

The parties have stepped up their onslaught against the ruling party, as Democratic Party Rep. Kim Kyoung-soo, a close confidant of President Moon Jae-in, has admitted that the key suspect in the scandal, nicknamed Druking, has known and contacted him since 2016, and asked for job favors. Kim denies any involvement in the case.

Druking and two others are charged with using a computer program in January to manipulate online public opinion. Kim's opponents suspect that Druking, once an avid supporter of Moon, might have used the program even in the lead-up to last year's presidential election.

Meanwhile, the ruling party was seen striving to turn political attention to preparations for the upcoming cross-border summit. It has designated this week as a "week of peace," calling for bipartisan support to ensure the success of the summit.

The party is also moving to drum up opposition parties' cooperation in adopting a parliamentary resolution backing the summit.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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