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Democratic Party on track to put legislative branch back to work on its own

Party looks to unilaterally open provisional assembly, appoint new speaker

June 28, 2022 - 14:48 By Ko Jun-tae
Reps. Jeon Yong-gi (left) and Oh Yeong-hwan (right) of the Democratic Party of Korea pose for a photo Tuesday as they submit a request to the National Assembly to open a provisional assembly in July. (Joint Press Corps)
South Korea’s legislative branch could be on course to return to work soon, as the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea is mulling unilaterally electing a new National Assembly speaker with negotiations between the rival parties stalling without much progress.

Reps. Jeon Yong-gi and Oh Yeong-hwan of the Democratic Party submitted a request to the National Assembly on Tuesday afternoon to open a provisional assembly in July following the party’s announcement earlier that it would use its own power to return the legislative branch to work.

“We can no longer just wait on the government and the ruling party only thinking of ways to push the main opposition party to the corner,” Rep. Park Hong-keun, floor leader of the Democratic Party, said in a party meeting Monday.

Regulations state that a provisional assembly can open three days after a request is submitted, which means a provisional assembly could start from Friday to run a plenary session.

The Democratic Party is aiming to use its sheer numerical dominance in the legislative branch to unilaterally run a vote to appoint the new speaker of the National Assembly. The party at the moment controls 170 out of 300 legislative seats at the National Assembly.

Regulations also state that a plenary session, if it opens, has to start by having the most senior legislator moderate the session to hold the election procedure for the new National Assembly speaker.

The Democratic Party already ran an internal vote last month to push Rep. Kim Jin-pyo as candidate for the election, and he is likely to be elected as the new speaker if the main opposition party pursues what it announced Monday, in the absence of any fruitful outcome from ongoing negotiations.

The party insisted that it would give up the chair post for the Legislation and Judiciary Committee if the ruling People Power Party agreed to take part in the special committee for prosecution reform and retract a competence dispute request it filed with the Constitutional Court.

The People Power Party refused the Democratic Party’s offer, saying the main opposition party’s demands and its will to start a provisional assembly on its own are signs of the liberal bloc starting a “legislative dictatorship.”

“The Democratic Party must come to its senses,” Rep. Kweon Seong-dong, floor leader of the People Power Party, said in a party meeting Tuesday. “It has to return to the mental state it had when reaching a bipartisan compromise on July 23, 2021, which was praised by the public.”

Under the arbitration of then-National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-seug, floor leaders of both parties agreed then to give 11 committee chair positions to the Democratic Party and the remaining seven to the People Power Party based on the number of seats each party held in the legislature.

The promise included the Democratic Party handing over the chair post for the Legislation and Judiciary Committee this month, when the latter half of the 21st Assembly starts for new chairs and the speaker is to be appointed.

The Democratic Party fiercely opposed the People Power Party’s calls to uphold the deal until recently, saying the promise was an irresponsible move from negotiators of both parties. It was only several days ago when the party decided to impose conditions in place of giving up the pivotal chair post.