The ruling Democratic Party of Korea is raising concerns that it will abuse its large majority -- having won 177 of 300 seats in the general election.
It was belatedly discovered that the party had punished former lawmaker Keum Tae-sub on May 25 for not voting in favor of a bill pushed by the party.
The bill calls for the creation of a new agency to investigate high-ranking officials, and was passed.
Keum was the only lawmaker of the party who cast a blank ballot on the bill in December last year. He abstained according to his belief.
The party reportedly defined his abstention as violation of its official position, and gave him a “warning.”
It is rare for a party to punish lawmakers for voting on a bill according to their belief.
A lawmaker is an independent constitutional representative of the people, and not a rubber stamp.
The Constitution stipulates that lawmakers shall perform their duties according to their conscience. The National Assembly Law says that lawmakers, as representatives of the public, shall vote without being bound by the intention of parties they belong to.
Keum was an object of the party’s ire before voting on the bill in question. During a confirmation hearing on Cho Kuk, President Moon Jae-in’s justice minister nominee, Keum was critical of him. Cho resigned as Justice Minister amid popular anger over allegations of wrongdoing against his family.
Hardline supporters of Moon condemned Keum for criticizing Cho and not voting in favor of the bill. Apparently affected by these supporters, the party dropped him from candidacy for the April 15 general election.
Then, it went further and gave him a “warning” just five days before his term as a lawmaker ended.
This smacks of retribution, and runs counter to the spirit of the National Assembly Law that guarantees the autonomy of every lawmaker.
The party keeps covering up for Rep. Yoon Mi-hyang despite popular and media criticism over her suspected embezzlement of donations to a civic group she led to protect former comfort women.
The party defends a lawmaker who faces serious allegations, while punishing someone else who votes on his belief.
Keum’s punishment is likely a warning to other lawmakers to follow the decisions of the party leadership or face the consequences.
Ruling party leader Lee Hae-chan told a meeting of lawmakers Tuesday that “we should try to correct distorted parts of modern Korean history one by one.”
It claims that Han Myeong-sook, former prime minister under the government of the late President Roh Moo-hyun whom Moon served as chief of staff, was not guilty, even though the Supreme Court has already found her guilty of bribery in a unanimous ruling.
A lawmaker is demanding reinvestigation of the mid-air bombing of a Korean Air 858 jet in November 1987, even though the National Intelligence Service already concluded after reinvestigation in 2007 that the bombs in the aircraft were planted by North Korean agents. One of the agents even confessed.
Another lawmaker is seeking to revise related laws, arguing that graves at the National Cemetery should be “dug up and relocated if the people buried were pro-Japanese during the Japan’s colonial rule over Korea.”
The party is trying to change stark historical facts to fit its viewpoint on the back of its overwhelming majority.
Its attempt to rewrite modern Korean history goes beyond the bounds of the legislative branch. Historical issues must be evaluated objectively by historians over a long time.
As Lee ordered silence over suspicions surrounding Rep. Yoon, other lawmakers are not opening their mouths, though her issues are of great interest to the people.
The party argues its lawmakers should chair all the 18 standing committees of the National Assembly. It ignores the custom of distributing the posts to parties considering the proportions of their seats.
It took procedures to open the new National Assembly even if it has to do so unilaterally, though it has not reached deals with opposition parties on the necessary issues. The unilateral opening is the first since 1967.
No other party has enough votes to stop it from acting as it pleases.