Tue | Nov 28, 2023

South Korean lawmakers impeach minister over crowd crush

Published:Wednesday | February 8, 2023 | 1:07 PM
South Korean Interior and Safety Minister Lee Sang-min arrives to attend a meeting on integrated defense at the former presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, February 8, 2023. (Lim Hun-jung/Yonhap via AP)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea's opposition-controlled parliament on Wednesday voted to impeach the country's interior and safety minister, Lee Sang-min, holding him responsible for government failures in disaster planning and the response that likely contributed to the high death toll in a crowd crush that killed nearly 160 people in October.

The impeachment suspends Lee from his duties and the country's Constitutional Court has 180 days to rule on whether to unseat him for good or give him back the job.

Vice Minister Han Chang-seob will step in as acting minister until the Constitutional Court decides on Lee's fate.

Lee is seen as a key ally of conservative President Yoon Suk Yeol, whose office issued an irritated response to his impeachment, accusing opposition lawmakers of abandoning legislative principles and creating “shameful history.”

Lee issued a statement expressing regret after lawmakers voted 179-109 in favour of impeaching him and said he would defend his case in the Constitutional Court.

“(I) hope that the vacuum in public safety (management) created by this unprecedented situation would be minimised,” Lee said.

Lawmakers had previously impeached former conservative President Park Geun-hye in December 2016. Three months later she was formally removed from office by the Constitutional Court and arrested over a huge corruption scandal.

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