Political confrontation in Korea escalates as Democrats motion to dismiss prime minister

Posted on : 2023-09-18 16:49 KST Modified on : 2023-09-18 17:09 KST
The Democratic Party has declared an “all-out struggle” against the Yoon administration, calling the entire Cabinet to resign
Lawmakers with the Democratic Party sit outside the office of Lee Jae-myung at the National Assembly, where Lee has been carrying out his hunger strike, on Sept. 17. (Yonhap)
Lawmakers with the Democratic Party sit outside the office of Lee Jae-myung at the National Assembly, where Lee has been carrying out his hunger strike, on Sept. 17. (Yonhap)

South Korea’s top opposition party submitted a motion on Monday for Prime Minister Han Duck-soo to be removed from office. The move came after Democratic Party leader Lee Jae-myung was hospitalized on the 19th day of his hunger strike.

The Democratic Party on Sunday declared an “all-out struggle against the administration,” demanding that President Yoon Suk-yeol’s entire Cabinet resign.

With the president’s office responding to the Democratic Party’s demands by calling them an “ill-advised struggle that will only hurt the people,” the impasse in which neither party backs down is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

The Democratic Party held two meetings of its Supreme Council on Sunday morning and afternoon to discuss plans for its offensive against the administration. Plans for ending Lee’s hunger strike were also discussed.

“If the Yoon Suk-yeol regime doesn’t clean up the mess it’s made, the Democratic Party will utilize the authority of the National Assembly to correct the current situation,” the party’s highest leadership committee wrote in a statement condemning the presidential office. The statement reiterated the party’s calls for Han to be dismissed and the rest of Yoon’s Cabinet to resign.

On Saturday, the Democratic Party held a five-hour emergency party caucus at the National Assembly, where it adopted a resolution in which it vowed to carry out an “all-out struggle against the tyranny of the Yoon Suk-yeol regime and the dictatorship by prosecutors.”

The resolution encompassed plans to immediately submit a motion to dismiss Han while pressing for an overhaul of the policy direction of the Yoon administration and resignation of the president’s Cabinet. Democrats also said they would begin procedures to initiate an independent counsel probe into what they allege was a mishandled investigation into the death of a Marine corporal.

The top opposition party further went on to pledge that it would fight “unjust, politically motivated investigations and suppression of the political opposition” by the Yoon administration. It also said it would initiate impeachment proceedings against prosecutors who have violated the law.

The party expressed in its resolution that it would join hands with all corners of civil society for a struggle led “by the people.”

The Democratic Party also delivered a letter to Lee co-signed by all affiliated lawmakers in which it called on the party leader to end his hunger strike. However, Lee remained stalwart in his decision to continue his act of protest.

Following a medical team’s determination that Lee should end his fast and seek medical treatment, Democrats endeavored to persuade their party leader to admit himself to a hospital on Sunday afternoon, even having an ambulance on standby, but Lee refused.

The ruling camp dismissed the Democratic Party’s fight as “arbitrary.”

When reached for comment about the presidential office’s stance on Democrats’ motion to dismiss Han and demands that the entire Cabinet resign, a senior official in the presidential office remarked, “If anything, the current situation calls for cooperation between factions, so this an ill-advised struggle that will only hurt the people.”

With prosecutors’ request for an arrest warrant for Lee added to the mix, how Democrats will handle the motion for his arrest in parliament and whether their party’s leader will find himself behind bars is likely to add to uncertainty in Korea’s current political situation.

By Kang Jae-gu, staff reporter; Kim Mi-na, staff reporter; Seo Young-ji, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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