Ruling party boycotts final hearing on spy agency scandal
SEOUL, Aug. 21 (Yonhap) -- The ruling party on Wednesday boycotted the final parliamentary hearing on the state intelligence agency's alleged meddling in last year's presidential election, citing the absence of witnesses.
The hearing was supposed to be the last time the parliamentary investigative committee would question witnesses in connection with allegations that the National Intelligence Service (NIS) conducted an online smear campaign to sway public opinion in favor of the ruling Saenuri Party ahead of last year's presidential election.
The ruling party and the main opposition Democratic Party agreed earlier that they would reserve the final hearing for those witnesses who failed to appear at the previous two hearings and those the parties had yet to agree on.
The opposition party demanded the appearances of Rep. Kim Moo-sung of the ruling party and Ambassador to China Kwon Young-se, citing their alleged involvement in the scandal.
The ruling party refused to accept that demand, and on Tuesday, announced it would not attend the final hearing because that would only lead to more wrangling between the parties in the absence of any witnesses to question.
DP lawmakers on the committee opened the hearing on their own, denouncing the ruling party and President Park Geun-hye.
"The Park Geun-hye government is handling (the scandal) foolishly," Rep. Park Young-sun of the opposition party said. "It can secure its legitimacy only by uncovering (the truth behind the allegations), but it appears that it's digging its own grave."
Other DP lawmakers argued that the ruling party should be held responsible for the absence of Kim and Kwon from the hearing.
They also claimed that the reason former NIS chief Won Sei-hoon and former Seoul police chief Kim Yong-pan refused to take an oath at their hearing last week was because the ruling party intended to sabotage the parliamentary probe.
Some DP lawmakers called for the appointment of a special independent counsel to uncover the truth behind the scandal, saying a parliamentary probe or a prosecution investigation is not enough.
The parliamentary probe, which began early last month, is set to end on Friday, but many have expressed doubts as to whether it uncovered anything new related to the scandal.