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Partisan tension grips last day of 21st Assembly session

May 29, 2024 - 16:12 By Kim Arin
Democratic Party of Korea lawmakers and lawmakers-elect stage a protest outside the Yoon Suk Yeol presidential office in Yongsan, central Seoul, on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

The 21st legislative session of the National Assembly ended Wednesday amid an unceasing partisan gridlock.

On the last day of the four-year session, the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea staged a rally outside the Yoon Suk Yeol presidential office to protest a contentious special counsel investigation bill failing to pass the Assembly in a vote held Tuesday.

The Democratic Party-led bill seeking the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the on-duty death of a marine in July last year could not pass, despite the opposition party controlling the Assembly.

Out of the 294 members present in the Tuesday plenary session, 179 voted in favor of the bill and 111 against. Four votes were counted as invalid. The threshold necessary to pass the bill was a two-thirds majority vote in favor.

The Democratic Party, joined by other minor parties, has vowed to push the bill again as soon as the next Assembly session starts Thursday.

“We are not giving up. We are taking this until the end,” Rep. Lee Jae-myung told a party leadership meeting Wednesday.

Corporal Chae Su-geun, 20, died when he was swept away by moving water during a search and rescue operation for flood victims in a rain-swollen river in Yecheon, North Gyeongsang Province.

His death became a public scandal, with several senior military officials and Cabinet members having come under investigation by the police and the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials.

While the Democratic Party argues a special counsel should initiate an investigation simultaneously, the ruling People Power Party says it should wait until the ongoing investigation undertaken by the police and the anti-corruption agency is concluded.

The special counsel investigation, which once passed, had to be put to a revote on Tuesday after Yoon vetoed it and sent it back to the Assembly. This marks the 10th veto the president has exercised over Assembly-passed bills since he took office two years ago.

The ruling People Power Party floor leader Rep. Choo Kyung-ho on Wednesday blamed the Democratic Party for abusing its majority in the Assembly to pass bills without the consent of the rival party.

“There is no dialogue or compromise in the Assembly anymore,” said Choo, who served as Yoon’s finance minister. “So many bills were rushed before they could be reviewed sufficiently in the Assembly because the Democratic Party chose to do that with their majority seats.”