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Bills fast-tracked, but tension remains in parliament

The bills at the center of contention between the ruling and opposition parties have been put on the fast track, but the National Assembly remains tense and there is a long road ahead before they are passed into law.

The bills -- which deal with election reform, the authority of police and prosecutors to investigate cases and indict suspects, and the establishment of a new investigative body that would look at allegations against high-level government officials -- were placed on the fast track early Tuesday morning, in spite of strong protests from the main opposition Liberty Korea Party. 

Liberty Korea Party lawmakers walk along a corridor at the National Assembly holding a banner that reads
Liberty Korea Party lawmakers walk along a corridor at the National Assembly holding a banner that reads "Dictator Moon Jae-in, democracy died today," on Monday. Yonhap

While the ruling Democratic Party and three minor opposition parties -- the Bareunmirae Party, the Justice Party and the Party for Democracy and Peace – succeeded in speeding up the process, putting the bills to a vote could take up to 330 days.

The bills will first have to be reviewed by the concerned parliamentary committees, which could take up to 180 days. After that, regardless of whether they are approved by the committees or voted down, the bills are sent to the legislation and judiciary committee.

The judiciary committee’s review could last up to 90 days, after which the bills would be submitted for consideration at the regular session of the National Assembly.

The parties that support the bills, however, hope to cut processing time to 180 days: The step of putting the bills up for the regular session’s consideration can be omitted, and the parliamentary committee review period can be halved.

But the main opposition Liberty Korea Party is unlikely to allow the ruling party coalition to put its plans into action without resistance.

In an attempt to block the bills from being fast-tracked, Liberty Korea Party lawmakers staged sit-ins at the National Assembly, denying access to the conference rooms for the special committees on political and judicial reform.

Liberty Korea Party lawmakers clashed physically with ruling and minor opposition lawmakers. In response, the Democratic Party and the Justice Party have filed criminal complaints against a large number of main opposition lawmakers.

The clashes in the National Assembly have gained much public attention, with polls showing that more than 43 percent of the public blames the main opposition. A petition calling for the Liberty Korea Party’s dissolution, posted on the presidential office’s website, has now gained over 1.16 million signatures.

The Liberty Korea Party, however, appears unfazed and is warning that it will strongly resist the ruling party and the Moon Jae-in administration.

“Moon Jae-in forces have completed the last puzzle for dictatorship. (They) destroyed the path of parliamentary democracy, and opened the path to left-wing dictatorship,” Liberty Korea Party Chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn wrote on his social media account Tuesday, referring to the ruling and minor opposition parties.

Hwang said the Moon Jae-in administration “hijacked and monopolized” the same public sentiment that led to former President Park Geun-hye being ousted.

“Let’s now hold up torches of justice for the people,” Hwang wrote, calling on conservatives to resist what he called a “candlelight dictatorship.”

By Choi He-suk (