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(LEAD) Parliamentary probe into spy agency scandal ends in uncertainty

2013/08/23 19:50

(ATTN: ADDS opposition leader's remarks in last three paras)

SEOUL, Aug. 23 (Yonhap) -- A parliamentary investigation into the state intelligence agency's alleged meddling in last year's presidential election wrapped up Friday without a joint report on the outcome as the rival parties differed sharply in their views of the case.

The investigation, which began on July 2, sought to uncover the truth behind allegations that the National Intelligence Service (NIS) conducted an online smear campaign to sway public opinion in favor of the ruling party ahead of December's election.

The ruling Saenuri Party has dismissed the allegations as an attempt by opposition parties to discredit President Park Geun-hye and challenge the legitimacy of the administration, while the opposition parties have demanded an apology from Park, punishment for those involved in the alleged operation and an overhaul of the spy agency.

The parliamentary investigative committee met earlier in the day to discuss what it should include in its final report on the outcome of the probe, but the meeting was later adjourned amid wrangling between the rival parties.

"The probe lasted more than 50 days, and if we don't adopt a report on its outcome, we will end up having done nothing," Rep. Kwon Seong-dong of the ruling party said at the meeting. "Let's adopt a report that lists the perspectives of both the ruling and opposition parties."

   Rep. Jung Chung-rai of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) expressed objection to the idea, saying the "truth is too far from the lies."

   The committee is not scheduled to meet again unless the two parties reach a compromise later in the day, meaning the probe would end without a conclusion.

Opposition party officials have said they will draw up an unofficial report of their own if they fail to win the ruling party's support.

The DP also filed charges with the prosecution against former NIS chief Won Sei-hoon and former Seoul police chief Kim Yong-pan for refusing "without good reason" to take an oath at a parliamentary hearing into the scandal last week.

The two, who are currently standing trial on charges of meddling in last year's presidential election, had refused to take the oath in the hearing, citing a law that protects those on trial.

Later in the day during an outdoor rally at Cheonggye Square in downtown Seoul, DP leader Kim Han-gil said he would step up his party's protest by sleeping in a tent set up at outside at Seoul Square. The DP has been staging street protests since Aug. 2, accusing the ruling party of trying to sabotage the parliamentary probe into the NIS scandal.

"I'll keep a tent as my house day and night and dawn," said Kim, adding that President Park Geun-hye's continued silence over the scandal is driving the country into greater chaos.

He called for a through probe into the scandal, the punishment of those responsible and an apology from Park.