Parliament rejects proposal to approve opposition lawmakers’ arrest

SEOUL, The National Assembly on Monday rejected the prosecution's request for consent to arrest two opposition lawmakers, sparking criticism of a "bulletproof" parliament shielding fellow lawmakers accused of wrongdoing.

In a plenary session, the Assembly voted down the government's proposal to permit the arrest of Hong Moon-jong, a fourth-term lawmaker, and Yeom Dong-yeol, a second-term politician, both from the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP)

South Korean lawmakers cannot be arrested or detained while the parliament is in session without parliamentary consent unless they are caught red-handed.

Hong is suspected of receiving illegal funds via a private school foundation while Yeom is allegedly involved in a hiring scandal at Kangwon Land Co., a state-run casino operator.

The rejection is likely to invite criticism about lawmakers' lenient attitude toward their colleagues at a time when parliament just passed bills on an extra budget and a special counsel probe into an online opinion rigging scandal after a months-long impasse.

"I apologized to the public over parliament's rejection," Hong Young-pyo, the floor leader of the ruling Democratic Party (DP), told a briefing.

"The general public has long called for the abolition of lawmakers' privilege of enjoying immunity from arrest ... As the floor leader of the DP, I felt responsibility for the fact that some party members cast no votes over the proposal."

But the opposition LKP said the prosecution abused its power against lawmakers with no evidence backing its suspicions.

"The National Assembly took its minimum defense against the prosecution's abuse of power," Chang Je-won, a spokesman of the party, said.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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