The Korea Herald


Yoon accepts broadcasting watchdog chief's resignation ahead of impeachment motion

By Jung Min-kyung

Published : Dec. 1, 2023 - 15:03

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Lee Dong-kwan. (Yonhap) Lee Dong-kwan. (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk Yeol on Friday granted his approval for the resignation offered by the state broadcasting watchdog chief, effectively derailing the main opposition party's plans to proceed with an impeachment motion originally scheduled for later in the day.

Yoon's approval followed a surprising turn of events, when Korea Communications Commission Chairman Lee Dong-kwan reportedly submitted his resignation to Yoon late Thursday.

"President Yoon has approved KCC Chairman Lee Dong-kwan's resignation request," the president’s office said in a statement released at around noon, without disclosing the specifics behind Yoon’s decision.

The main opposition Democratic Party of Korea introduced a unilateral motion to impeach Lee earlier this week based on its longstanding criticism of him "cracking down on outlets for hostile coverage against the government" and aiding the president’s "efforts to control the press."

The vote was scheduled to be passed on Friday afternoon if the National Assembly impeachment vote were to take place.

The Democratic Party, which holds the controlling majority of seats in the Assembly to pass motions without consent from the ruling People Power Party, has pushed to impeach several of Yoon’s Cabinet members before Lee. It currently has 168 seats in the 198-member Assembly.

The People Power Party has criticized the Democratic Party’s attempts to impeach the KCC chairman, labeling it a move to gain an upper hand in the upcoming parliamentary elections set for next April. Broadcasting companies have traditionally wielded significant influence in the voting process during elections.

Prior to Yoon's announcement, the main opposition party had warned that it would proceed with the impeachment process of two other figures for corruption -- Son Jun-seong and Lee Jung-seop -- regardless of the situation surrounding Lee Dong-kwan. Both prosecutors were accused alongside the former broadcasting watchdog chief of conspiring with the ruling People Power Party.

However, the opposition-controlled National Assembly voted Friday afternoon to impeach Son and Lee Jung-seop, during a plenary session boycotted by the People Power Party.

The passage of the impeachment motions effectively suspended the two prosecutors from their duties until the Constitutional Court decides whether to endorse or reject their impeachment.

Both prosecutors were accused alongside the former broadcasting watchdog chief of conspiring with the ruling People Power Party.

Lee Jung-seop had been leading investigations into some of the more high-profile corruption scandals surrounding the leader of the Democratic Party, Rep. Lee Jae-myung, until recently.

Due to various allegations, including unauthorized access to criminal records and inappropriate meetings with subjects of investigation, he is no longer involved in the investigation of Lee.

Son was accused of colluding with the then-United Future Party, the precursor to the People Power Party, and allegedly orchestrating the filing of complaints against key figures within the ruling camp at the Democratic Party. The purported intention was to initiate a prosecution investigation ahead of the 2020 parliamentary elections.

The Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials filed charges against Son in May of last year, and Son has consistently denied the allegations.