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Democratic Party looking to arbitrarily pass prosecution reform bill

Tension continues after People Power Party steps back from bipartisan compromise

April 26, 2022 - 14:20 By Ko Jun-tae
National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-seug (center) convenes a meeting with Rep. Kweon Seong-dong (left), floor leader of the People Power Party, and Rep. Park Hong-keun (right), floor leader of the Democratic Party of Korea, on Tuesday morning after the two parties` compromise on the controversial prosecution reform bill was broken a day earlier. (Joint Press Corps)
The Democratic Party of Korea is on track to pass the controversial prosecution reform bill as it originally proposed, after the bipartisan compromise it reached with the conservative bloc fell apart.

Floor leaders of the Democratic Party and its main rival People Power Party met for a meeting with National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-seug on Tuesday but parted ways without progress. The 70-minute meeting started at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday but was concluded without any update on how the bill will be processed.

Rep. Park Hong-keun, floor leader of the Democratic Party, told reporters following the meeting that he insisted that the bill should be passed quickly in the National Assembly, adding he requested a plenary session to be held Wednesday for the bill to be put to a final vote.

The People Power Party on Monday decided to step back from the compromise its floor leader Rep. Kweon Seong-dong and Park Hong-keun reached Friday, fearing negative public sentiment towards the deal and its potential to threaten the party’s chances of victory in the upcoming local elections.

Lee Jun-seok, chairman of the conservative party, officially announced the party will break away from the Friday compromise, instead suggesting the parliament to hold a public hearing on the prosecution reform bill. The compromise also contains serious loopholes and flaws, he said.

The People Power Party, under Lee’s lead, insists the political circle should hold extended discussions on how to ensure checks and execute reforms on the prosecution long accused of abusing its power and authority for political purposes.

The decision came as President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol broke his silence and through his spokesperson earlier in the day said that he effectively opposes the bipartisan compromise, emphasizing “no politics can prevail over the people.”

Yoon’s spokesperson said the president-elect did not involve himself in the negotiation process towards the bipartisan compromise but did receive updates from Kweon on the progress.

Kweon has been met with fierce criticism from all sides for failing to reflect the views of his party and the general public on the bill as well as the bipartisan compromise. He nevertheless demanded the liberal party to negotiate again in concern of the negative public opinion on the Friday deal.

“The public opinion is ice cold on the last compromise,” Kweon said in a party meeting Tuesday. “Even if the rival parties reached a deal, a compromise that cannot persuade the people cannot earn righteousness in itself.”

The People Power Party wants to stop the Democratic Party from arbitrarily passing the bill within this month’s provisional assembly, which ends on May 4, but the party lacks realistic means to stop the legislative push. The Democratic Party alone controls 171 out of 300 seats at the National Assembly, as opposed to 110 seats from the People Power Party.

Since the compromise broke down, the liberal party has started the legislative process on the prosecution reform bill as originally proposed, with its lawmakers kicking off the review procedure at the Legislation and Judiciary Committee on Monday evening.

The party hopes to make the bill into law through promulgation at President Moon Jae-in’s final Cabinet meeting slated for May 3, as Yoon, starting his term on May 10, is widely expected to veto the bill.

Park Hong-keun said he expects his party’s lawmakers to complete the review process on the bill at the judiciary committee by Tuesday’s end, hinting he will work to have the bill put for a final vote at a plenary session Wednesday as he requested Park Byeong-seug.

The National Assembly speaker declined to provide details on whether the request will be granted, but it has been speculated that Park Byeong-seug will continue to work to have the rival parties reenter negotiations to reach another compromise on the prosecution reform bill.