The Korea Herald


Ruling party urges Yoon to veto opposition-led labor, media bills

By Son Ji-hyoung

Published : Nov. 13, 2023 - 15:25

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President Yoon Suk Yeol delivers a speech at the National Saemaul Leaders Conference in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, on Sunday to honor the spirit of diligence and self-help that led to South Korea's rapid development in the late 20th century. (Yonhap) President Yoon Suk Yeol delivers a speech at the National Saemaul Leaders Conference in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, on Sunday to honor the spirit of diligence and self-help that led to South Korea's rapid development in the late 20th century. (Yonhap)

South Korea's ruling People Power Party on Monday asked President Yoon Suk Yeol to veto recent bills passed by opposition parties, which the Democratic Party of Korea claims are aimed at protecting workers and shielding Korea's terrestrial broadcasters from political influence.

Voices against the bills both in political and business circles are adding to expectations that Yoon will veto the bills.

"We hereby ask President Yoon to veto the bills for the country and its citizens' livelihood," Rep. Kim Gi-hyeon, chairman of the conservative People Power Party, said Monday at a party board meeting at the National Assembly.

"We must stop the (labor bill) from becoming law because it may clog up the economy, and the three broadcasting bills must be blocked as well, otherwise the public broadcasting services here will turn into media mouthpieces of the Democratic Party," Kim added.

The ruling party chairman, like business groups here, claims that the labor bill popularly known as the "Yellow Envelope bill" will eventually encourage illegal industrial action.

On Monday, Korea Enterprises Federation Chairman Sohn Kyung-shik said the legislation "justifies indiscriminate work stoppages of workers and overly protects those who illegally go on strike."

The liberal Democratic Party of Korea, on the other hand, urged Yoon to sign the bills into law, saying the president's exercise of his veto powers would give him a bad name.

"(The Yoon administration) will be no different from the authoritarian regimes in the past that tried to calm down dissenters by merging media corporations and purging journalists," Rep. Lee Jae-myung of the Democratic Party of Korea said in his party's board meeting.

The contentious bills on Thursday passed the parliament, where the main opposition party controls a majority of seats. Out of the 298 seats occupied, the Democratic Party holds 168, while the People Power Party controls 111.

People Power Party lawmakers walked out when the Democratic Party-sponsored bills were put to a vote last week.

The revision of the Trade Union and Labor Relations Adjustment Act is designed to restrict employers from suing those who go on strike for financial damages inflicted on the company.

Meanwhile, three broadcasting bills to amend the Broadcasting Act, the Foundation for Broadcast Culture Act and the Korea Educational Broadcasting System Act are aimed at weakening the government and politicians' power to name boardroom directors to control two terrestrial TV networks, the Munhwa Broadcasting Corp. and Korea Broadcasting System.

The board directors of each TV network have the authority to nominate their respective chief.

A filibuster by the ruling party to deter the passage of the bill commenced Thursday, but the party pulled out later the same day due to fears that keeping the plenary session open with the filibuster could result in the opposition bloc pushing to pass a motion to impeach Lee Dong-kwan, head of the Korea Communications Commission who has the power to nominate or dismiss board members of MBC and KBS.

The opposition has criticized a series of moves to change the leadership at terrestrial broadcasters, as the opposition bloc believes that the phenomenon stems from unwritten rules under which the formation of TV networks' boardrooms are influenced by the ruling party of each administration.

The broadcast staff subject to the attempted change took office when the opposition was in power.

The boardroom shakeup often resulted in a change in the leadership, including Yoon's affirmation of Park Min as KBS chief on Sunday after a board director and the former KBS chief were sacked.

Rep. Jo Seoung-lae of the Democratic Pary on Monday protested the decision in front of Yoon's office, claiming the leadership change at KBS was an outcome of a "cunning ploy" by the Yoon administration.

Media watchdog KCC has tried to sack two board directors at MBC, but the move was nullified in a court ruling.

If Yoon exercises his veto power at the urging of the ruling party, this would mark the third occasion since the prosecutor general-turned-conservative president took office in May 2022.

Yoon in April vetoed a grain act revision increasing requirements on the government to purchase excess rice yields to keep grain prices afloat for the sake of farmers' livelihood. It was the first presidential veto in seven years.

A month later, Yoon vetoed the Nursing Act, which nurses hoped would ease nursing regulations, saying the enactment could invite social conflict between physicians and nurses.

Under South Korea's Constitution, the National Assembly can override a veto following revision of the bill with a two-thirds majority -- a practically insurmountable threshold in the current political landscape.