December 29, 2023
SEOUL – Two contentious special investigation bills, one of which pushes for a probe into stock manipulation allegations involving First Lady Kim Keon Hee, were unilaterally passed by the opposition-led National Assembly on Thursday.
President Yoon Suk Yeol swiftly announced that he would veto both bills, according to presidential office spokesperson Lee Do-hoon.
An official in the presidential office, who requested to remain anonymous, called the latest move led by the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea “problematic” and a “blatant attempt” to attack the current administration and the government ahead of next year’s general election.
A total of 180 lawmakers from opposition parties — mostly formed of those from the Democratic Party which holds a controlling majority of 167 seats in the 298-member Assembly — passed the bills as all 111 members of the ruling People Power Party boycotted the vote.
The bill tied to the first lady pushes for an investigation into allegations that Kim was involved in manipulating the stock prices of Deutsch Motors, a local car dealer associated with German carmaker BMW, between 2009 and 2012. Kim has denied the allegations.
The other special investigation proposal revolves around bribery allegations against six officials who were accused of accepting promises of receiving 5 billion won ($3.8 million) each from an asset management firm. The allegations are tied to a controversial development project in the Daejang-dong district of Seongnam, south of Seoul.
The opposition bloc had designated the two bills as “fast-track bills,” which prevents a proposal from pending in parliament for too long.
The National Assembly’s decision comes as the rival parties have been gearing up for next year’s general elections scheduled in April. The ruling party has criticized the Democratic Party’s attempt to pass the two probe bills as a “smear campaign” against the Yoon administration.
The rival parties have been locking horns in recent months over a slew of issues including the two bills that were passed and next year’s budget plan, which was only passed last week, missing the legal deadline of Dec. 2.
In November, the National Assembly started assessing the 2024 budget announced by the Ministry of Economy and Finance in August, which calls for a 2.8 percent on-year increase in government spending to 656.9 trillion won. The 2.8-percent gain marks the smallest annual increase for the government budget after the country remodeled its budgetary statistics to align with international standards.
The Cabinet and the ruling party have cited government debt that has exceeded 1,000 trillion won in recent years which could put sovereign credit ratings under pressure and increase the debt burden for future generations, behind its fiscal tightening.