DP to push for impeachment of defense minister over young Marine’s death

The main opposition Democratic Party (DP) will push for the impeachment of Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup over allegations he unfairly interfered with a military investigation into the death of a young Marine, party leader Lee Jae-myung said Monday.

The minister has been under fire over his handling of the Marine Corps investigation into what contributed to the death of Cpl. Chae Su-geun, who was swept away by an overflowing stream during a mission to search for victims of downpours on July 19.

"The impeachment of the defense minister is an order from the people," DP Chairman Lee said in a statement while on an anti-government hunger strike for the 12th day. "President Yoon Suk Yeol rejected a demand from the people that he fire the minister."

The DP leader claimed that although the defense minister was found to have unfairly interfered with the Marine Corps investigation into the death, Yoon did not remove him from office. That proves the presidential office was also involved, the opposition leader claimed.

It will mark the second time for the DP to push for the impeachment of a Cabinet minister since the Yoon administration came into office. In February, the DP-led National Assembly impeached Interior Minister Lee Sang-min, but the Constitutional Court rejected the impeachment in July.

The impeachment push comes amid reports that Yoon is mulling replacing the defense, culture and gender equality ministers, and Rep. Shin Won-sik of the ruling People Power Party, a retired three-star Army general, is being talked about as a leading candidate for defense minister.

Chae's death sparked criticism that his commanders pushed for the risky operation without safety measures.

The Marine Corps investigation found eight people, including the commander of the 1st Marine Division, responsible for negligent homicide and other charges, and the chief investigator, Col. Park Jung-hun, reported to Defense Minister Lee on July 30 that he will transfer the findings to civilian police as required by law.

The minister approved the decision at first but reversed his decision a day later and ordered the chief investigator to hold off on the transfer, citing a need for further review. But Park transferred the records anyway and has since been under investigation on the charge of disobeying orders.

The DP has raised suspicions that the defense minister ordered that the transfer be suspended after the presidential National Security Office demanded that some of the eight people specified as responsible for the death be removed from the investigation records.

The presidential office has rejected the allegations.

Source: Yonhap News Agency