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Cabinet passes motion requesting parliamentary reconsideration of special probe bill over Marine's death

May 21, 2024 - 10:41 By Yonhap
Prime Minister Han Duck-soo (4th from left) presides over a Cabinet meeting at the government complex in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

The Cabinet again passed a motion Tuesday demanding the National Assembly reconsider a bill mandating a special counsel investigation into the military's response to a Marine's death, the second time it did so in less than two months.

The bill calls for the appointment of a special counsel to look into allegations the presidential office and the defense ministry inappropriately interfered in the military's investigation into the death of Cpl. Chae Su-geun, who was killed during a search mission for victims of heavy downpours in July 2023.

Should President Yoon Suk Yeol endorse the motion, the legislation will be sent back to the National Assembly, marking an escalation of a monthslong standoff between rival parties over the contentious bill, as an earlier version was passed by the opposition-controlled Assembly in May but vetoed by Yoon and then ultimately scrapped.

"The main reasons (the bill was vetoed) were that even though a special counsel should be introduced to supplement and as an exception on the premise of agreement between the rival parties or the government's acceptance, it was unilaterally railroaded by the opposition party, and in terms of its content, did not meet the principle of the separation of powers and failed to guarantee political neutrality," Prime Minister Han Duck-soo said at a Cabinet meeting before the motion was approved.

"Therefore, if the National Assembly were to push again for this bill, a process of fixing and supplementing the concerns raised is necessary through consultations between the rival parties," he continued. "However, the opposition party once again unilaterally railroaded a bill that in fact further increased its unconstitutionality."

The latest version was introduced by the main opposition Democratic Party following the inauguration of the new National Assembly in late May, this time with added provisions allowing the special counsel to investigate other cases related to the Marine's death and expanding the opposition party's rights to recommend a special counsel.

The DP railroaded it through a plenary session last week despite fierce protest from the ruling People Power Party, which has argued for the need to first see the results of separate investigations by the police and the Corruption Investigation Office for High-Ranking Officials.

On Monday, police released the findings of their investigation, which resulted in six military field commanders being referred to the prosecution on charges of professional negligence resulting in death.

Police did not, however, charge the Marine division commander at the center of the interference allegations. (Yonhap)