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National Assembly suspends voting on fast-tracked reform bills

New Floor Leader Shim Jae-cheol of the Liberty Korea Party (Yonhap)
New Floor Leader Shim Jae-cheol of the Liberty Korea Party (Yonhap)
The National Assembly decided Monday to suspend voting on fiercely contested fast-tracked bills, including election and prosecutorial reforms, and postpone its plenary session until Tuesday.

National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang drew the floor leaders of three major parties -- the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, Liberty Korea Party and minor conservative Bareunmirae Party -- to the agreement, following the election of the Liberty Korea Party’s new floor leader, Shim Jae-cheol.

The longstanding battle over the passage of the reform proposals came to an interim cease-fire as the Liberty Korea Party retracted its earlier decision to stage a filibuster on pending bills at the parliament.

“We will consider withdrawing our decision to stage a filibuster after the party meeting,” Shim said to reporters after the meeting with his fellow party leaders.

The Liberty Korea Party had consistently refused to recant its filibuster despite repeated calls from the ruling Democratic Party of Korea and other minor parties.

The parliament will vote on next year’s budget and review other less contentious bills Tuesday, when it convenes a last plenary session before it opens a special session the following day.

While the election and prosecutorial reform bills are postponed to a later vote after Tuesday, it remains unclear exactly when the parliament will see those bills pass during the special session that starts Wednesday.

Meanwhile, some political experts speculate that newly elected Floor Leader Shim Jae-cheol of the Liberty Korea Party will check on his superior, Chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn, criticized on occasions for his domineering and dogmatic leadership.

Having served as deputy speaker in 2017, five-term lawmaker Shim is considered a political strategist who can power through difficulties the Liberty Korea Party now faces.

In the party election, Shim gained 52 out of 106 votes.

Rep. Kim Jae-won, a three-term lawmaker, was elected as the conservative party’s new policy chief.

Shim’s election came after two rounds of voting, as none of the four contenders won a majority in the first vote. Shim, who received 39 votes in the first round, competed against Rep. Kang Seok-ho and Rep. Kim Seon-dong, who scored 28 votes each.

The new floor leader will succeed the outgoing Na Kyung-won, whose one-year term ends Tuesday upon the party’s decision not to renew her tenure.

“With humility, I will devote myself to the party,” Shim said to his fellow lawmakers at his acceptance speech. “With you, we will win the general election next year.”

By Choi Si-young (