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Special counsel bill on death of Marine fails to pass in Assembly revote

Political tension likely to shift to new parliament as Democratic Party plans to railroad bill

By Jung Min-kyung

Published : May 28, 2024 - 15:30

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The final plenary session of the 21st National Assembly convened Tuesday. (Yonhap) The final plenary session of the 21st National Assembly convened Tuesday. (Yonhap)

A bill mandating a special counsel probe into the Yoon Suk Yeol administration’s response to the death of a young marine last year failed to pass in a revote held during the final plenary session of the 21st National Assembly on Tuesday.

The bill was scrapped after failing to win two-thirds of approval from lawmakers physically present in the parliamentary vote, which is required to override the presidential veto under current law.

Of the 294 Assembly members that participated in the revote, 179 voted in favor of passing the bill, while 111 voted against the bill. Four lawmakers chose to abstain from voting.

There are currently 296 members in the 21st Assembly, but two independent lawmakers, Reps. Youn Kwan-suk and Lee Su-jin, decided not to participate in Tuesday's revote.

The bill, vetoed by President Yoon last week after being passed by the opposition-controlled Assembly earlier this month, mandates the appointment of a special counsel to investigate allegations that the current administration attempted to coerce the Marine Corps' internal investigator into dropping charges against a division commander. These charges relate to the death of Corporal Chae Su-geun in July 2023 during a search and rescue operation in a stream flooded by torrential rains. The internal probe aimed to determine who was responsible for Chae's lack of safety equipment.

In protest of the result of the revote, a group of some 30 retired marines, who were observing the voting process, shouted at ruling party lawmakers. Some yelled "impeachment," while others shouted profanities. They were soon escorted out of the plenary chamber, where the voting took place.

Ahead of Tuesday's plenary session, the ruling People Power Party officially decided to reject and not vote in favor of the bill.

People Power Party interim leader Hwang Woo-yea claimed that the probe into the death of Marine Cpl. Chae Su-geun must be dealt with as a “regular criminal case” and not through a special counsel investigation.

The ruling party leadership also made efforts to convince at least five of its members who expressed willingness to vote in favor of the vetoed bill in recent days, according to People Power Party Floor Leader Rep. Choo Kyung-ho.

As of early Tuesday, People Power Party Reps. Ahn Cheol-soo, Yu Eui-dong, Kim Geun-tae, Kim Woong and Choe Jae-hyeong openly expressed support for the passage of the vetoed bill, against the policy stance of their party leadership.

“We are talking with (our party) lawmakers who have voiced a different opinion (towards the vetoed bill),” Choo told reporters after an intra-party leadership meeting in the morning.

“We assure (our supporters) not to worry. There are no other members (besides the five lawmakers) who have expressed voices that are not in line with our party’s policy stance,” he added.

Main opposition leader Rep. Lee Jae-myung had called for the ruling party’s support of the vetoed bill, saying that they must “follow the voice of conscience and uphold the Constitution.”

The Democratic Party has announced plans to railroad the bill again with the incoming 22nd National Assembly, whose term kicks off on Thursday. The main opposition secured 175 seats in the 300-member, single-chamber National Assembly, through the April 10 parliamentary elections.