SEOUL, Feb. 9 (AP) South Korea’s opposition-controlled parliament voted Wednesday to impeach Interior and Security Minister Lee Sang-min, arguing he was responsible for the government’s lapses in disaster planning and a response that may have led to high death tolls due to crowding10 Nearly 160 people died in January.
The impeachment suspended Lee, and the Constitutional Court has 180 days to decide whether to remove him permanently or return him to work.
Read also | Ukraine-Russia war: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky makes surprise visit to Britain and France seeking weapons and equipment.
Vice Minister Han Chang-sub will serve as acting minister until the Constitutional Court decides on Lee Jae-yong’s fate.
Lee, seen as a key ally of conservative President Yoon Hee-yeol, whose office reacted angrily to his impeachment, accusing opposition lawmakers of abandoning legislative principles and creating “shameful history”.
Read also | Pakistan crisis: Petrol pumps shut down in major cities including Lahore, Faisalabad, Gujranwala due to fuel shortage.
Expressing regret after lawmakers voted 179 to 109 to impeach him, Lee said he would defend his case in the Constitutional Court.
“(I) hope to minimize the public safety (management) vacuum created by this unprecedented situation,” Lee said in the statement.
Lee is the first cabinet minister to be impeached by the National Assembly, which previously impeached conservative President Park Geun-hye in 2016. After the constitutional court removed her and jailed her for corruption, her liberal successor pardoned her in December 2021.
The impeachment of Lee Jae-yong underscores the growing gridlock Yoon faces in a parliament controlled by his liberal opponents and could further intensify partisan political struggles in the country that have exacerbated ethnic divisions.
A few weeks ago, police announced they were filing criminal charges, including involuntary homicide and negligence, against 23 officials, about half of whom were law enforcement officers, after they said a lack of security was to blame for crowds in Itaewon, Seoul’s nightlife. district.
After a 74-day investigation into the incident, a special investigation team led by the National Police Agency concluded that despite the expected large gathering of Halloween revelers, police and public officials in Yongsan-gu, Seoul, failed to take meaningful action. crowd control measures. They also ignored calls from pedestrians to a police hotline that warned of crowd swelling hours before the Oct. 28 surge became deadly.
People began to collapse and be crushed to death in a narrow alley near the Hamilton Hotel around 10 p.m., and officials responded poorly, failing to contain the scene and get rescuers to the injured in time.
However, opposition politicians claim police investigators have been soft on senior members of Yoon’s administration, including Lee Jae-yong, who faces resignation, and National Police Agency chief Yoon Hee-geun.
Police investigators said they had concluded investigations into Lee’s department and the National Police Agency before turning the case over to prosecutors, and said it was difficult to establish direct responsibility for those offices.
Oh Yeong-hwan, a lawmaker and spokesman for the main opposition Democratic Party, said lawmakers “carried out the people’s order” to impeach Lee, who he said was responsible for the deadly crowd surge in Itaewon. He criticized Yoon for sticking with Lee Jae-yong in the face of growing calls to oust him.
“The National Assembly had to hold (Lee) accountable because President Yoon Suk Yeol refused to accept that responsibility,” Oh said.
Jang Dong-hyuk, lawmaker of Yoon’s People’s Power Party, accused the opposition of “trampling on (South Korea’s) constitutional order,” insisting there was no justification for Lee’s impeachment.
He insists the liberals are motivated by a political hatred of Yoon as prosecutors in his administration press ahead with an investigation into corruption allegations surrounding Democratic Party Chairman Lee Jae-myung, an inflammatory lawmaker who narrowly won the presidential election last year. The advantage lost to Yin.
Lee Sang-min faced huge criticism shortly after the crowds crowded for his insistence that having more police and first responders at the scene still could not have prevented the tragedy in Itaewon was seen as an attempt to sidestep questions about the lack of police presence. Precaution.
Seoul police dispatched 137 officers to Itaewon on the day of the crash, despite expectations of more than 100,000 people attending. Those officers focus on monitoring narcotics use and violent crime, which experts say leaves few resources for pedestrian safety.
Some experts have called the Itaewon crash a “man-made disaster” that could have been avoided with fairly simple steps, such as hiring more police and public workers to monitor bottlenecks, enforcing the use of one-way streets and sealing off narrow passages Or temporarily close the subway station in Itaewon to prevent large numbers of people from moving in the same direction. (Associated Press)
(This is an unedited and auto-generated story from a Syndicated News feed, the content body may not have been modified or edited by LatestLY staff)