An agreement reached Monday by leaders of the ruling party and three minor opposition parties roiled the country’s political scene Wednesday, intensifying divisions within the minor opposition Bareunmirae Party and sparking backlash from the main opposition Liberty Korea Party.
In a dramatic turn of events, the Bareunmirae Party sent an official document to National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang notifying him of its plans to replace Rep. Oh Shin-hwan on the special committee on judiciary reform with Rep. Chae Yi-bae.
The troubled party’s move came after Oh vowed to vote against the bill to establish an independent investigative body.
Oh’s vote is crucial to the bill’s success: To pass the committee and proceed on the fast track, it requires approval from at least 11 of the 18 members of the special committee for judiciary reform. Seven members are Liberty Korea Party lawmakers.
If Oh votes against the bill, which would mean adjusting the balance of investigative and indictment authority between the police and prosecution, it cannot be put on the fast track.
The four party leaders had agreed to fast-track key bills by passing them in special committees on political reform and judiciary reform by Thursday.
Following a social media post from Oh, a member of the special committee on judiciary reform, in which he pledged to vote against the investigative body, party leader Son Hak-kyu hinted at the possibility party that Floor Leader Kim Kwan-young might press Oh to relinquish his seat on the committee.
“It seems as though Rep. Oh has asked for (the party to) take away his post for voting against it (independent investigative body),” Son said.
“I understand Floor Leader Kim Kwan-young would appropriately manage the situation.”
Son emphasized that party members on the special committee for judiciary reform have a responsibility to deliver the party’s stance through their votes.
Turmoil within the Bareunmirae Party surfaced Tuesday after it narrowly passed the motion, 12 to 11, to fast-track the establishment of the envisioned independent investigative body, intensifying conflict between members of the now-disbanded conservative Bareun Party and the now-disbanded progressive People’s Party.
The vote split the party, with Rep. Lee Un-ju announcing her decision to leave the party shortly after the vote. Lee Jun-seok of the party’s supreme council urged party Floor Leader Kim Kwan-young to step down, accusing the floor leader of “committing violence against parliamentary democracy.”
Ramping up their opposition to the contentious bill, conservative Liberty Korea Party lawmakers took to Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang’s office to prevent the Bareunmirae Party from removing Oh from the special committee.
The visit turned into a shouting match and physical brawl between Moon and the lawmakers, resulting in Moon receiving medical treatment for low blood pressure.
“Approving (the Bareunmirae Party’s decision) to take Oh Shin-hwan off the committee will ultimately pave the way for the mixed-member proportional representation system and the establishment of the independent investigative agency. This will break apart the Constitution of the Republic of Korea,” said conservative party Floor Leader Na Kyung-won at the speaker’s office.
The mixed-member proportional representation system is widely expected to pass the special committee on political reform as there are six Liberty Korea Party lawmakers on the 18-member committee.
Liberty Korea Party members vowed to hold a late-night protest at the National Assembly until Thursday to express opposition to the independent investigative body.
Meanwhile, in a survey of 504 adults carried out by local pollster Real Meter, 50.9 percent of respondents said they supported Monday’s agreement, while 33.6 percent were opposed.
By Kim Bo-gyung