(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in 8th para and statement by first-term lawmakers in last 4 paras; ADDS photo)
SEOUL, April 9 (Yonhap) -- Five young lawmakers of the Democratic Party (DP) said Friday that their party's campaign for prosecution reform may have failed to win public consensus, possibly leading to its devastating defeats in this week's mayoral by-elections in Seoul and Busan.
The five lawmakers -- Reps. Oh Yeong-hwan, Lee So-young, Jang Kyung-tae, Jang Chul-min and Jeon Yong-gi -- made the critical remarks on the party's yearlong drive to weaken the power of the prosecution while reflecting on the causes of its election defeats during a news conference at the National Assembly.
As part of its prosecution reform, the ruling party is pushing to set up a new agency under the Ministry of Justice to take away the prosecution's investigative authority over six serious crimes, including corruption and economic crime cases.
Yoon Seok-youl resigned as prosecutor general in March after denouncing the reform move as violating "the spirit of the Constitution."
The five lawmakers, all in their 20s and 30s, said that they once thought of Cho Kuk, the controversial former justice minister, as the champion of prosecution reform but that such an attitude may have angered and divided the public.
"Prosecution reform was a policy supported by many people but has lost the consensus of the public due to the conflict between (former Justice Minister) Choo Mi-ae and Yoon," they said.
They also took issue with the party leadership's decision to field candidates for the mayoral by-elections, though the two mayoral seats were vacated due to alleged sexual offenses by DP members.
The party's constitution previously called for nonparticipation in a by-election called after a DP member loses an elected seat over "serious wrongdoing." But the party leadership amended the internal rule late last year to take part in the latest by-elections.
"Candidates were fielded after revision of the party's constitution, and there were not any proper apologies to the sexual offense victims. We admit that the cause of the election defeat lies in the misjudgment and miscalculation of the Democratic Party," they said.
The young lawmakers also vowed to act as the party's main force to better represent the voices of the people.
In a related development, the ruling party's 81 first-term lawmakers issued a joint statement later in the day, expressing regrets over the party's earlier decision to revise its by-election rule.
"We all first-term lawmakers (of the DP) reflect on our failure to participate fiercely in the party's decision-making process. Our party should not have fielded candidates for the April 7 by-elections in accordance with the previous party constitution," the statement said.
"The party constitution was revised without winning the consensus of the public. Thereafter, our party turned a deaf ear (to criticism) and became a party of vested rights and arrogance," it said.
The first-term lawmakers then vowed to become the main force behind the party's renovation and come up with measures to overhaul its overall policies, operation methods, business practices and attitudes.