South Korea’s opposition-controlled parliament on Wednesday voted to question the nation’s inside and security minister, Lee Sang-min, holding him chargeable for authorities failures in catastrophe planning and the response that probably contributed to the excessive loss of life toll in a crowd crush that killed practically 160 individuals in October.
The impeachment suspends Mr. Lee from his duties and the nation’s Constitutional Court has 180 days to rule on whether or not to unseat him for good or give him again the job.
Vice Minister Han Chang-seob will step in as performing minister till the Constitutional Court decides on Mr. Lee’s destiny.
Mr. Lee is seen as a key ally of conservative President Yoon Suk Yeol, whose workplace issued an irritated response to his impeachment, accusing opposition lawmakers of abandoning legislative ideas and creating “shameful history.”
Mr. Lee issued a press release expressing remorse after lawmakers voted 179-109 in favor of impeaching him and stated he would defend his case within the Constitutional Court.
“(I) hope that the vacuum in public safety (management) created by this unprecedented situation would be minimised,” Mr. Lee stated.
Mr. Lee is the primary ever South Korean Cabinet minister to be impeached by the National Assembly. Lawmakers had beforehand impeached former conservative President Park Geun-hye in December 2016. Three months later she was formally faraway from workplace by the Constitutional Court and arrested over an enormous corruption scandal.
Mr. Lee’s impeachment highlights the rising deadlock Mr. Yoon faces in a parliament managed by his liberal opponents and will additional intensify the nation’s partisan political combating that has fueled a nationwide divide.
Mr. Lee’s impeachment got here weeks after police introduced they’re in search of felony prices, together with involuntary manslaughter and negligence, towards 23 officers, about half of them legislation enforcement officers, for a scarcity of security measures they stated had been chargeable for the gang crush in Itaewon, a serious nightlife district in Seoul.
Following a 74-day inquiry into the incident, a particular investigation workforce led by the National Police Agency concluded that police and public officers in Seoul’s Yongsan district didn’t make use of significant crowd management measures regardless of anticipating large gatherings of Halloween revelers. They additionally ignored pedestrian calls positioned to police hotlines that warned of a swelling crowd hours earlier than the surge turned lethal on October 28.
Officials additionally botched their response as soon as individuals started getting toppled over and crushed in a slim alley clogged with partygoers close to Hamilton Hotel round 10 p.m., failing to ascertain efficient management of the scene and permit rescue employees to succeed in the injured in time.
However, opposition politicians claimed that police investigators went mushy on greater members of Mr. Yoon’s authorities, together with Mr. Lee and National Police Agency Commissioner General Yoon Hee-keun, who had been dealing with calls to resign.
The police investigators stated they’d closed their probes on Mr. Lee’s ministry and the National Police Agency earlier than handing over the case to prosecutors, saying it was tough to ascertain the direct accountability of these workplaces.
Oh Yeong-hwan, lawmaker and spokesperson for the primary opposition Democratic Party, stated lawmakers “carried out the order of the people” in impeaching Mr. Lee, who he stated must be held chargeable for the lethal crowd surge in Itaewon. He criticized Yoon for sticking with Mr. Lee within the face of mounting requires his elimination.
“The National Assembly had to hold (Mr. Lee) to account, because President Yoon Suk Yeol refused to accept that responsibility,” Oh stated.
Lawmaker Jang Dong-hyuk of Yoon’s People’s Power Party accused the opposition of “tramping on (South Korea’s) constitutional order,” insisting that Lee was impeached with out a justifiable trigger.
He insisted that the liberals had been motivated by political vendetta towards Yoon as prosecutors below his authorities push ahead an investigation into corruption allegations surrounding Democratic Party Chairman Lee Jae-myung, a firebrand lawmaker who narrowly misplaced to Yoon in final 12 months’s presidential elections.
Lee Sang-min confronted large criticism shortly after the gang crush after he insisted that having extra police and emergency personnel on the bottom nonetheless wouldn’t have prevented the tragedy in Itaewon, in what was seen as an try to sidestep questions concerning the lack of preventive measures.
Despite anticipating a crowd of greater than 100,000, Seoul police had assigned 137 officers to Itaewon on the day of the crush. Those officers had been targeted on monitoring narcotics use and violent crimes, which specialists say left few sources for pedestrian security.
Some specialists have referred to as the crush in Itaewon a “manmade disaster” that would have been prevented with pretty easy steps, comparable to using extra police and public employees to observe bottleneck factors, implementing one-way stroll lanes and blocking slim pathways or briefly closing Itaewon’s subway station to forestall giant numbers of individuals transferring in the identical path.