September 5, 2023
SEOUL – South Korean Rep. Youn Mee-hyang, formerly with the Democratic Party of Korea, has come under scrutiny for attending an event organized by a North Korea-affiliated group based in Japan last week.
Youn was referred to the National Assembly’s ethics committee on Monday for an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding her participation in the pro-North Korea event. According to a document obtained by Rep. Ha Tae-keung’s office, the opposition lawmaker had requested the Assembly secretariat’s support in organizing her trip to Japan.
Ruling People Power Party chief spokesperson Rep. Yoo Sang-bum said in Monday’s closed-door briefing that the South Korean public would “not be sympathetic” toward an Assembly member addressing an event held by a group that has a “history of being hostile toward our country.”
While the Democratic Party, in defense of Youn, snubbed the criticism from the ruling party as an “outdated ideological attack,” Yoo said the opposition lawmaker “abandoned her duty as a member of the South Korean parliament by choosing to associate with such a group.”
The ruling party spokesperson called on Youn to give up her seat at the Assembly for failing to serve the best interests of the country.
Apparently alluding to Youn, President Yoon Suk Yeol said in a chief of staff meeting Monday that “regardless of which side of the political aisle one stands on, we must unite resolutely against anti-state activities that threaten to topple our foundation as a free and democratic nation.”
Shortly after Youn’s attendance at the controversial event became known, the South Korean Ministry of Unification said Sunday it was looking into whether the lawmaker had violated laws on inter-Korean exchanges.
The Unification Ministry said Youn had not filed prior notice to her contact with groups or individuals with North Korea affiliations, as required per the inter-Korean exchange laws. Violating inter-Korean exchange laws can result in a fine.
Earlier this year, a former aide for Youn resigned following accusations of coming in contact with North Korean authorities while working at the Assembly, according to ruling party lawmakers.