From left: Rep. Kweon Seong-dong, floor leader of the ruling People Power Party, speaks at a party meeting Thursday. Main opposition Democratic Party of Korea`s floor leader Rep. Park Hong-keun is in a meeting Thursday. (Joint Press Corps)
National Assembly proceedings are in a gridlock, with the ruling and main opposition parties locking horns over control of key legislative posts.
The ruling People Power Party wants to take the Legislation and Judiciary Committee chair post, as part of the compromise it reached with the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea last year. In the compromise, the two parties agreed on which party would take certain chair posts in the latter half of the 21st National Assembly.
“If the Democratic Party keeps its promise, forming new leadership of the legislature will be an easy process,” said Rep. Kweon Seong-dong, floor leader of the ruling party, in a radio interview Thursday.
“The promise (the Democratic Party) made to the people last year was that it would give the chair of the Legislation and Judiciary Committee to the People Power Party in the latter half (of the 21st National Assembly).”
Under the arbitration of then-National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-seug, floor leaders of both parties agreed in July last year to give 11 committee chair positions to the Democratic Party and the remaining seven to the People Power Party based on the number of seats each party held in the legislature.
The promise included the Democratic Party handing over the chair post for the Legislation and Judiciary Committee in June, when the latter half of the 21st assembly starts for new chairs and the assembly speaker is to be appointed.
The judiciary committee chair holds pivotal power in South Korea’s parliament, as all bills have to earn approval from the committee before heading to a final vote. Many bills in the past failed to be officially enacted from fierce stalling of approval proceedings from the judiciary committee.
Recognizing the importance the position holds, the Democratic Party has been fiercely opposing the People Power Party’s calls, saying that handing over the chair post will effectively result in a dictatorship of the People Power Party.
“Organizing the leadership of the National Assembly for its latter half should take place from a starting point in accordance with the National Assembly Act,” Rep. Park Hong-keun, floor leader of the Democratic Party, told reporters Wednesday.
“Legally entitled negotiators are floor leaders of the two main parties, so floor leaders of the Democratic Party and the People Power Party should freshly negotiate on forming the new leadership for the latter half.”
The compromise was made to let whoever stands as the main opposition party to have leverage over the legislative branch, Park said. He argued that the promise is no longer valid since the People Power Party now stands as the ruling bloc with President Yoon Suk-yeol heading the administration.
As the main opposition party looks to flip-flop on its promise, the ruling party has instead demanded that the opposition party let the ruling party appoint the National Assembly speaker. But the Democratic Party refused the call, saying that whichever party holds majority in the legislative branch should have the power to appoint the speaker.
The Democratic Party now holds 170 out of 300 seats at the National Assembly, while the People Power Party controls 114 seats.
By Ko Jun-tae (firstname.lastname@example.org