Democrats ride wave of 1M signature petition for Yoon to be impeached

Posted on : 2024-07-04 16:26 KST Modified on : 2024-07-04 16:26 KST
The presidential office has said that it does not view impeachment as possible “when there are no clear violations of the law cited”
Democratic Party lawmaker Kang Deuk-gu and Kim Eun-jin, the corepresentative of a movement to impeach President Yoon Suk-yeol, announce plans for candlelight rallies following an online National Assembly petition calling for an impeachment motion against Yoon gained over 1 million signatures on July 3, 2024. (Yonhap)
Democratic Party lawmaker Kang Deuk-gu and Kim Eun-jin, the corepresentative of a movement to impeach President Yoon Suk-yeol, announce plans for candlelight rallies following an online National Assembly petition calling for an impeachment motion against Yoon gained over 1 million signatures on July 3, 2024. (Yonhap)

A National Assembly online petition calling for an impeachment motion against South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol had received over 1 million signatures as of Wednesday.

The Democratic Party ramped up its offensive against Yoon’s ruling People Power Party, predicting that “as many as 2 million or 3 million people could sign.” It is also planning a “hearing-level response,” making use of all the measures at its disposal in the National Assembly’s Legislation and Judiciary Committee, to which the petition was referred.

As of 4:40 pm on Wednesday, a total of 1,024,200 signatures had been recorded on a “petition to request the immediate presentation of an impeachment motion against President Yoon Suk-yeol,” which had been posted on the National Assembly petition website.

Originally posted on June 20 by a user surnamed Kwon, the petition took three days to surpass the 50,000 signatures needed for referral to the presiding National Assembly standing committee. The million-signature threshold was crossed 13 days after the petition went up.

When a petition was posted in April 2020 to impeach then-President Moon Jae-in for “failing to impose entry ban measures on Chinese nationals” in response to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, it received over 1.47 million signatures within a month. With the 30-day consent period continuing until July 20, the rate suggests a strong likelihood that the petition for Yoon’s impeachment will break the previous signature record.

The petition cited five grounds for Yoon’s impeachment, including ones relating to allegations of external pressure in the investigation of a Marine’s death during flood rescue efforts, first lady Kim Keon-hee’s acceptance of a luxury handbag as a gift and implication in Deutsch Motors stock price manipulation, and unfair dealings related to a proposed expressway between Seoul and Yangpyeong.

On Tuesday, the presidential office said, “We do not view an impeachment as possible when there are no clear violations of the law cited.”

During a general meeting of lawmakers on Wednesday, Democratic Party floor leader and acting leader Park Chan-dae called the presidential office’s response “truly pathetic.”

“If the People Power Party fails to see the public’s anger expressed in the more than 1 million petition signatures and continues to ignore it, it will end up forced out by the power of the people,” he warned.

Once the petition’s consent period ends on July 20, the question of whether to refer it to the petition review committee will be decided in a plenary session of the Legislation and Judiciary Committee. The referral does not appear completely out of the question, with 11 opposition party members on the Legislation and Judiciary Committee — including Chairperson Jung Chung-rae — compared with seven from the ruling party.

After discussions in the petition review subcommittee, the motion would be sent back to the Legislation and Judiciary Committee, where a referral to the regular session would be decided in another plenary session.

For now, the Democratic Party plans to use all the legal means available to it within the petition review subcommittee system. In particular, it intends to make full use of the authority prescribed by the National Assembly petition review rules under the National Assembly Act, including activities without session constraints, verification of facts through local dispatching, data collection, and the gathering of statements from petitioners and stakeholders.

“If necessary, we may hold a hearing during the review process,” suggested Democratic Party parliamentary spokesperson Kang Yu-jung.

The five-member subcommittee includes four members from the Democratic Party, with Kim Yong-min as chairperson and additional members Kim Seung-won, Park Jie-won, and Seo Young-kyo. In contrast, Yoo Sang-bum is the lone representative of the ruling party — meaning the subcommittee’s makeup is very much in the Democratic Party’s favor.

“Anyone can be called in for questioning, including officials from the presidential office,” said a Democratic Party official associated with the Legislation and Judiciary Committee. 

“Unlike the plenary session, there is no time limit on speaking, so we’ll be able to investigate the relevant issues more deeply,” they predicted.

Another official said, “Even if we do not pursue an impeachment for now, faithful adherence to the procedures in the National Assembly Act should alone be enough to show President Yoon’s misgovernment.”

By Ko Han-sol, staff reporter; Lim Jae-woo, staff reporter

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

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