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Democratic Party takes key Assembly committee chair posts

Close aides of main opposition leader elected to head key standing committees in voting boycotted by ruling party

By Jung Min-kyung

Published : June 10, 2024 - 22:44

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(Yonhap) (Yonhap)

The main opposition Democratic Party of Korea on Monday took 11 of the total 18 standing committee chair positions for the first two years of the 22nd National Assembly, which began its four-year term on May 30, in voting boycotted by the ruling People Power Party.

The opposition-led Assembly elected representatives from the main opposition to chair 11 standing committees, including the Legislation and Judiciary Committee and the House Steering Committee, in a plenary session held in the evening. The legislative and the steering committees are considered the most powerful among such bodies that assess and approve bills to be put to vote in the plenary session.

The main opposition Democratic Party currently hold the majority of seats in the single-chamber, 300-member parliament: 175.

In line with the nominations announced by the main opposition last week, Democratic Party Rep. Jung Chung-rae became chair of the Legislation and Judiciary Committee, while Rep. Park Chan-dae will head the House Steering Committee. Jung and Park are both considered as close aides to Democratic Party leader Rep. Lee Jae-myung.

All other opposition parties including the New Reform Party and the Rebuilding Korea Party participated in the vote.

The plenary meeting which was initially scheduled for 2 p.m. was delayed twice to 8 p.m., after the rival parties failed to settle their differences over the Democratic Party's nominee list.

The conservative bloc denounced the Democratic Party’s moves as an attempt to protect and help their chair, Lee.

“(The main opposition’s) move is not aligned with the National Assembly Act nor traditions, and it only reflects its willingness to keep its chair, Lee, afloat,” People Power Party spokesperson and Rep. Jang Dong-hyeok told reporters ahead of the plenary session.

Conservative Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon characterized the main opposition's agenda as a scheme to bolster Rep. Lee Jae-myung’s possible candidacy for the 2027 presidential election.

“It is the National Assembly’s great tradition to (name a member of a party other than the largest party) as chief of the Legislation and Judiciary Committee to bring about politics of mutual consent,” Oh wrote on Facebook.

“(The Democratic Party’s move) aims to use the Assembly as a tool to (smooth the road) for Chair Lee Jae-myung towards the presidential election through legislative dictatorship,” he wrote.

Monday’s vote follows the opposition-led Assembly’s decision to elect Democratic Party Rep. Woo Won-shik as Assembly speaker, in a similar vote held last week in which only the opposition parties participated. The vote marked the first and opening plenary session of the Assembly in South Korea’s constitutional history in which the ruling party did not participate. It instead held a rally outside the hall where the plenary session was taking place.

It is customary for a member of the second-largest party to head the Legislation and Judiciary Committee and a lawmaker from the ruling party to lead the House Steering Committee, according to the ruling party.

For the latter half of the preceding 21st Assembly, members of the People Power Party headed seven committees, including the Legislation and Judiciary Committee, while lawmakers from the Democratic Party led the remaining 11 bodies.