South Korea’s opposition-controlled parliament has passed a motion urging President Yoon Suk-yeol to sack his prime minister over alleged incompetence and policy failures.
Lawmakers on Thursday voted 175-116 in favour of pushing for Han Duck-soo’s dismissal.
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The motion, signed by 168 opposition lawmakers, alleged that the Han-led cabinet caused a “crisis for people’s lives, democracy and peace on the Korean Peninsula” and “consistently demonstrated incompetence, inaction and irresponsibility”.
It is the first time such a motion, which is not binding, has passed against a prime minister in South Korea.
The law, according to news website The Korea Times, states that “sitting lawmakers are immune from arrest while parliament is in session and can be arrested only when the National Assembly consents to it”.
President Yoon is expected to exercise his power to reject the motion.
Arrest warrant against opposition leader
Separately on Thursday, parliament voted to allow prosecutors to serve an arrest warrant against the main opposition leader facing an investigation into bribery and breach of duty charges.
The acceptance of the motion meant that Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) leader Lee Jae-myung would face court to contest the charges that include breach of trust and bribery among others, in connection with a scandal-ridden land development project and his alleged involvement in a company’s illegal cash remittance to North Korea.
Lee was hospitalised on Monday while on a hunger strike protesting what he called policy failures by Yoon’s government, including economic mismanagement and not doing enough to stop Japan’s Fukushima wastewater release.
Lee, whose party holds 167 seats in the 297-member parliament, is accused of asking a company to illegally transfer $8m to North Korea when he was the governor of Gyeonggi Province.
In addition, he was accused of breaching his duty over losses of 20 billion won ($15m) by a municipal development corporation during his time as mayor of Seongnam city.
Denying any wrongdoing, he called the allegations “fiction” and a “political conspiracy”, with members of his party criticising the investigations against him as a political witch-hunt orchestrated by the government.
In a social media post on Wednesday, Lee had urged lawmakers to vote against the motion and stop what he called “prosecution dictatorship” by the Yoon government despite having promised earlier not to use his parliamentary immunity.
The DPK had also submitted a motion on Monday seeking Han’s ouster, hours after Yoon’s government submitted its motion requesting lawmakers to lift Lee’s immunity to arrest.
The duelling motions underscored deepening political bickering ahead of parliamentary elections in April next year.
The vote to sack the PM is seen as a midterm referendum on Yoon’s presidency as he struggles to navigate post-pandemic economic woes and escalating tensions with nuclear-armed North Korea.