Following the aftermath of the April by-elections and recent turmoil over the Korea-EU Free Trade Agreement bill, political parties face a major leadership shift, including for the floor leader seats.
The ruling Grand National Party held an in-party election on Friday, and the main opposition Democratic Party is scheduled to follow suit next Friday, according to officials.
The last inter-party issue for GNP floor leader Kim Moo-sung and his DP counterpart Park Jie-won was the conflict over the much disputed Korea-EU FTA bill which was passed on Wednesday.
Kim and Park are largely praised for having restored the spirit of communication and compromise in the National Assembly during their office.
“We shall work together to revive true politics in Yeoido (where the assembly is located),” the two top lawmakers said upon taking office last May.
The two floor leaders, who are also close acquaintances, have often induced compromises from the conflicting parties over divisive major issues.
One of their top accomplishments was the agreement last year under which the GNP would put the Sejong City revision bill to parliamentary vote and the DP would withdraw their assembly law revision.
Another recent outcome, though it caused backlash, was their settlement over the long-stalled Korea-EU FTA bill.
Ever since the free trade deal was signed last October, parties have clashed over how to protect local businesses from potential damages.
On Monday this week, the GNP and the DP, together with governmental officials, finally agreed on a compromised bill with reinforced protective measures. They also agreed to pass the bill in a special plenary session on Wednesday.
The decision, however, met violent resistance from other minority parties and also from within the DP itself.
The bill was passed in a belated session late at night, in the absence of opposition lawmakers.
“I have tried, as the ruling party’s communication leader, to communicate with the opposition camp,” said Kim Moo-sung.
“Though the ratification did not quite take place as compromised, it is significant that the parties were able to make a deal anyway in the first place.”
Park, whose reputation was partly damaged by the FTA bill discord and the opposition’s boycott of the ballot session, also felt the same way as his counterpart.
“I could have handed over the troublesome issue to my successor but felt the need to take responsibility as floor leader of the leading opposition party and come up with measures to protect our local merchants and farmers,” said Park.
“The adjective bills, which were to pass the Assembly if not blocked by the opposition camp, would have acted as minimum safety nets and need to be ratified in the coming sessions.”
Despite the disagreements over the FTA bill, many within political circles say that Kim and Park have proved their political communication skills.
Though neither has explicitly pledged to enter candidacy, many also speculate that the two may even rise as potential party leader candidates within the year.
By Bae Hyun-jung (email@example.com