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South Korea parliament approves contentious anti-corruption bill

South Korea’s parliament passed a bill that would expedite the creation of a new corruption investigation agency. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/33fc6d41db1103d45943410695489666/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
South Korea’s parliament passed a bill that would expedite the creation of a new corruption investigation agency. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 10 (UPI) -- South Korea's parliament passed a bill that would expedite the creation of a new corruption investigation agency, a move that was welcomed by President Moon Jae-in but drew protest from conservatives.

The bill, an amendment to the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials Act, passed in Seoul's National Assembly, with 187 lawmakers voting in favor and 99 opposed, Hankyoreh and JoongAng Daily reported Thursday.

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The revision curtails the veto power of the two seats held by the main opposition People Power Party. The new agency would also take over some powers of the prosecutors' office. Opposition lawmakers condemned the bill's passage on Thursday, calling the Moon administration a "dictatorship" and claiming democracy has died in the South.

The bill brings other changes, including standards for candidates. Prosecuting attorneys at the existing anti-corruption agency are currently required to have at least 10 years of experience, but the revision would lower that requirement to seven years, according to the Hankyoreh.

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On Thursday the main opposition said the ruling party had "trampled on 70 years of tradition and ethics in order to establish the corruption investigation office." Leading conservatives, including Joo Ho-young, a former judge, and Ahn Cheol-soo, a center-right politician and physician, said they will form an "emergency coalition" that is "anti-Moon Jae-in" to "end tyranny" in South Korean politics.

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Moon welcomed the passage of the bill Thursday, and said it would "open a path toward the rapid launch" of the agency after a period of delays.

Opposition lawmakers say other revisions are controversial because of the ruling party's decision to pass bills without building consensus.

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Lee Chul-gyu, a lawmaker with the People Power Party, said Thursday a revision to the National Intelligence Service Act, which punishes anti-state espionage, would severely reduce Seoul's capacity to investigate spies, Asia Business reported.

Lee also said it is "not true" Seoul's National Police Agency is to handle investigations into anti-state or pro-North Korean activities, and the National Intelligence Service's function of catching spies has been "erased."

The revision passed unilaterally in November by a committee of ruling party lawmakers.

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