Opposition leader lays out political reform proposals

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Feb 5, 2014 - 20:25
  • Updated : Feb 5, 2014 - 20:26
Kim Han-gil. (Lee Gil-dong/The Korea Herald)
Democratic Party chairman Rep. Kim Han-gil laid out another set of political reform plans on Wednesday, in an apparent effort to seize the initiative from independent Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo.

Ahn, who is set to launch his own party next month, has been encroaching on DP territory, drawing in supporters with his “new politics” pledge.

In his parliamentary address, Kim outlined proposals that would bring extensive change to the country’s political system. They were a follow-up to his plans announced Monday to reduce lawmakers’ privileges.

“Lawmakers laying down their privileges is only the start of political reform,” Kim said, going on to list the measures the party was formulating.

Under the plans, the DP will try to have parliamentary sessions and audits year-round, and to make the Special Committee on Budget and Accounts into a standing body.

In addition, the party plans to reduce the voting age to 18 and extend the voting hours to 8 p.m.

Other measures envisioned by Kim include setting up an independent committee for determining voting districts and making its decisions binding. Kim’s plans also include prohibiting proportional representatives’ seats from being inherited when such seats are made vacant due to illegal activities of its original holder. In addition, when an elected official is removed for corruption, the official’s party will be banned from nominating a candidate for the by-election.

As for a parliamentarian’s immunity to arrest, Kim called on the ruling Saenuri Party to begin negotiations to prevent its abuse, saying that abolishing the privilege would be included in the discussions for revising the Constitution.

As for the party’s North Korea policy, which sparked an in-house spat earlier this year, Kim’s speech hinted at a change in the party leadership’s plans.

“The DP will push for gradual and peaceful reunification through a policy of tolerance built on the foundations of strong security,” Kim said, explaining that the party opposes unifying the peninsula by absorbing the North.

Stressing the need for a reunification policy that will remain unchanged regardless of changes of administration, Kim called for the establishment of a committee to prepare for a reunified Korea. According to Kim’s designs, the committee will include representatives from the ruling and opposition parties, government and civic society.

“The committee will develop reunification policies based on national unity.”

In his New Year speech, Kim said that the Sunshine Policy would be modified and that the party would propose a new North Korean human rights act.

His comments incited criticism from party hard-liners, who accused the DP leadership of taking on right-wing views in related matters.

By Choi He-suk (