Lee Sang-min who was impeached by the parliament for the inconsistent response to the Halloween event that killed 159 people.
South Korean politicians voted to oust Interior Minister Lee Sang-min over his response to last October’s deadly Halloween crackdown, making him the first member of the cabinet to be dismissed by parliament.
At least 159 people were killed and 196 injured in the incident on October 29, when revelers flooded the narrow streets of Itaewon’s famous nightlife district to enjoy the first mask-free Halloween celebrations in three years.
Wednesday’s decision exceeded expectations by 179 to 109 in a secret ballot in a 300-seat chamber, with the opposition Democratic Party holding 169 seats.
The resolution needed support from at least 150 members to pass.
Democrats and other opposition parties called for the interior minister to be fired and urged him to take responsibility for the botched response.
“I fully agree with the court’s request that the Ministry of Interior and Defense be established as soon as possible,” the minister said.
The impeachment has suspended Lee from office and the country’s Constitutional Court has 180 days to decide whether to remove him from office or reinstate him, which could take up to six months.
Deputy Prime Minister Han Chang-seob will step in as caretaker minister until the Constitutional Court decides on Lee’s case.
The president has criticized the ‘shameful’ politics of parliament
President Yoon Suk-yeol, who counts Lee as a key ally, has rejected opposition demands to remove the interior minister, and his office and the ruling party have accused the Democrats of abusing their vast power to perpetuate the opposition.
“I reject parliamentary democracy,” Yoon’s office said in a statement after the ruling. “It will be written down as a shameful record in parliamentary politics.”
Lee’s indictment came weeks after police announced they were seeking charges, including manslaughter and negligence, against 23 officers, nearly half of them police officers, over the lack of security they say led to the massacre in Itaewon, the capital. the nightlife district of Seoul.
The case also highlights the challenges Yoon faces in a parliament controlled by his opponents and could deepen the political infighting that has divided the country.
An official of the president said that there is no evidence that the minister has seriously violated the law and any law.
Lee came under fire shortly after the crowd broke up after he insisted that having more police and emergency workers on the ground would not have prevented the disaster in Itaewon, in what appeared to be an attempt to sidestep questions about the lack of safety measures.
Despite expecting a crowd of over 100,000 people, Seoul police deployed 137 officers to Itaewon on the day of the festival. The authorities have focused on controlling drug use and violent crime, which experts say has left few tools to help pedestrians.
Some experts have called the crash in Itaewon a “man-made disaster” that could have been avoided with simple measures, such as using more police and civil servants to monitor the contents of the bottle, enforcing one-way traffic and closing narrow or temporary roads. closing the Itaewon subway station to prevent the flow of people from moving in one direction.
The conflict erupted this week between the Seoul government and the families of the victims after they set up an illegal memorial in front of the city hall. On Tuesday, city officials said the memorial violated the law and ordered it removed within a week.
In 2017, President Park Geun-hye became the first leader in South Korea to be removed from office when the Constitutional Court found her disobedient. The court rejected a decision to impeach President Roh Moo-hyun in 2004.