Opposition parties urge ruling party to return to parliamentary probe into Itaewon tragedy

SEOUL– Opposition parties on Tuesday urged lawmakers of the ruling People Power Party (PPP) to return to the special committee in charge of a parliamentary investigation into the Itaewon tragedy after they threatened to quit the committee en masse.

The PPP members of the committee offered to leave the committee in protest Sunday, shortly after the National Assembly, led by the main opposition Democratic Party (DP), passed a motion calling for the dismissal of Interior Minister Lee Sang-min.

The PPP has strongly opposed the dismissal motion, arguing it makes no sense to hold the minister responsible for the tragedy even before the parliamentary investigation determines who is responsible for the disaster that killed 158 people in Seoul’s Itaewon district on Oct. 29.

The opposition committee members said in a joint news conference that unless the PPP members express intention to return to the parliamentary probe committee Tuesday, they will take that as meaning that they delegated all their authority in setting the probe schedule and selecting witnesses to the three opposition parties.

They also said the committee will begin a full-scale parliamentary investigation Wednesday.
The 18-member special committee comprises nine members from the DP, seven from the PPP, and one each from the minor opposition Justice Party and the Basic Income Party.

Last month, the Assembly kicked off a 45-day probe into the Itaewon crowd crush after the rival parties reached a compromise deal to hold the probe after they deal with the government budget proposal for next year. The probe is set to run through Jan. 7.

The opposition members of the committee also accused the government of not cooperating with the committee’s request to submit documents related to the crowd crush, saying they will have to extend the probe period if this continues.

Some families of the victims of the Oct. 29 tragedy also held a news conference at the Assembly on Tuesday, calling on the parliament and the government to conduct the parliamentary probe “without leaving any sanctuary” to determine the “legal and administrative responsibilities.”

The bereaved families also called on President Yoon Suk-yeol to issue a proper apology, and asked the ruling party to meet with them and provide an explanation about some of its lawmakers controversial remarks on the tragedy.

“I would like President Yoon Suk-yeol to offer an apology in which a subject is clearly included,” a family member said. “A president’s apology is not just a mere apology, but it represents consolation for the people.”

PPP Rep. Kweon Seong-dong has written on his Facebook that the mourning families of the victims should not create a civic group to press the government, like the families of the victims of the 2014 Sewol ferry sinking did, sparking criticism.

Meanwhile, DP floor leader Rep. Park Hong-geun slammed Yoon for saying the interior minister’s dismissal should be considered after probes into the crowd crush are completed in a party meeting held earlier in the day.

“Minister Lee can make an apology at the very least by stepping down,” Park said, noting the ongoing police investigation into the case and the parliamentary investigation cannot be properly conducted with Lee keeping his position.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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