Democratic Party calls for 12 lawmakers suspected of real estate improprieties to “leave party”

Posted on : 2021-06-09 16:43 KST Modified on : 2021-06-09 16:43 KST
Party makes public list of lawmakers and allegations, plans to “expel” lawmakers on proportional list
Democratic Party lawmakers Kim Han-jung (left) and Woo Sang-ho hold individual press conferences Wednesday afternoon at the National Assembly Communication Building. Both lawmakers face allegations of violating laws related to real estate transactions and ownership following a recent probe by the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission (ACRC). (Kang Chang-kwang/The Hankyoreh)
Democratic Party lawmakers Kim Han-jung (left) and Woo Sang-ho hold individual press conferences Wednesday afternoon at the National Assembly Communication Building. Both lawmakers face allegations of violating laws related to real estate transactions and ownership following a recent probe by the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission (ACRC). (Kang Chang-kwang/The Hankyoreh)

The Democratic Party recommended that all 12 of its lawmakers alleged to have violated laws related to real estate transactions and ownership should leave the party.

The allegations in question emerged during a full-scale probe of affiliated lawmakers by the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission (ACRC).

With the ACRC having transferred the case over to the government’s joint special investigation headquarters, the party’s decision is that the lawmakers should forfeit their status as registered ruling party members and undergo investigation.

But the controversy over the handling of the probe’s findings is not expected to be put to bed easily, with some of the lawmakers in question vehemently objecting and protesting their innocence.

In a meeting of the Supreme Council Wednesday, the Democratic Party decided to disclose the names of the 12 lawmakers who received ACRC notifications and the allegations against them, and to recommend that they leave the party.

The lawmakers in question include four alleged to have registered real estate under someone else’s name (Kim Ju-young, Kim Hoi-jae, Moon Jin-seog and Youn Mee-hyang), three alleged to have used confidential business information (Kim Han-jung, Seo Young-seok and Lim Jong-seong) and five alleged to have violated the Farmland Act (Yang Yi Won-young, Oh Young-hun, Yoon Jae-kab, Kim Soo-heung and Woo Sang-ho).

The party plans to expel Youn and Yang Yi because, as lawmakers on the proportional list, they would automatically lose their seats if they left the party of their own volition. The idea is that they would then undergo investigation as independents, returning to the party later on if their charges are dismissed and their innocence is proven.

A day earlier, the ACRC announced that a probe of real estate transactions by 174 Democratic Party lawmakers and 816 of their spouses and lineal descendants and ascendants showed alleged legal violations in 16 cases involving 12 lawmakers: six involving the lawmakers themselves, five involving a spouse, three involving a parent, and one each involving a child or other relative.

Sharing the results on Wednesday from the Supreme Council discussions that led to the recommendation for the lawmakers’ departure, party senior spokesperson Koh Yong-jin explained, “The ACRC has transferred the case to the special investigation headquarters, since its probe of the various allegations could be viewed as insufficient based on the commission’s lack of compulsory investigation authority.”

“We recommended that [the lawmakers in question] leave the party so that they can undergo rigorous investigation as independent lawmakers,” he added.

At the meeting that day, the Supreme Council members’ discussion of how to approach the matter was based solely on the allegations raised by the ACRC, while the names of the lawmakers were not revealed.

Some attendees reportedly suggested that it was overly harsh to recommend that lawmakers leave the party over alleged violations of the Farmland Act, which prohibits individuals from owning farmland that they do not farm themselves.

The Democratic Party’s decision to recommend that all 12 lawmakers leave the party appeared to be based on public opinion blasting the party for its “double standard.”

In a radio interview with YTN, party leader Song Young-gil predicted that the lawmakers would “accept [the recommendation to leave] from the perspective of putting the party’s interests ahead of their own.”

But some of the lawmakers on the receiving end of the recommendations were up in arms.

Woo Sang-ho, who was alleged to have violated the Farmland Act by placing his mother’s grave on farmland in Pocheon, Gyeonggi Province, said at a press conference that he intended to reject the pressure to leave the party.

“For a politician, expulsion is an enormous punishment, a severe disciplinary action. They can’t make this kind of decision without hearing explanations from the people in question,” he insisted.

Kim Han-jung, who is suspected of using confidential business information when purchasing land near the planned “new town” of Wangsuk in Namyangju, also held a press conference in which he said the party’s “decision to recommend my departure based solely on the ACRC’s allegation was wrong and an unjust infringement of human rights.”

In contrast, Kim Ju-young and Moon Jin-seog, who are alleged to have registered real estate under other people’s names, and Yoon Jae-kab and Kim Soo-heung, who are alleged to have violated the Farmland Act, all indicated that they plan to abide by the decision of the party’s leader.

By Noh Ji-won & Shim Wu-sam, staff reporters

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