Rep. Kweon Seong-dong, floor leader of the People Power Party, takes questions from reporters Thursday. (Joint Press Corps)
South Korea’s rival parties on Thursday drew a partial compromise on forming new committee leadership for the legislative branch, raising hopes for the National Assembly to fully return to work in the coming days.
Rep. Kweon Seong-dong, floor leader of the ruling People Power Party, told reporters he has reached a deal with his counterpart Rep. Park Hong-keun of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea on participating in the proposed special committee for prosecution reform.
Kweon said he and Park agreed to have six members each from the ruling and main opposition parties join the committee as members, while a legislator from the Democratic Party takes the chair post. The committee will be tasked with coming up with legislative proposals to fully execute the prosecution reform pushed under the Moon Jae-in administration.
Observers see the ruling party as having decided to take part in the committee due to its belief that President Yoon Suk-yeol – a former prosecutor -- would veto any bill that would take away additional power from the prosecution.
Kweon said he also offered the chair seats for either the Public Administration and Security Committee or the Science, ICT, Broadcasting and Communications Committee to the Democratic Party. The People Power Party will chair whichever committee the Democratic Party does not take, he added.
The Democratic Party had asked for the chair seats to both committees, to assure freedom of the press and independence of state agencies, but the People Power Party rejected the notion. The ruling party argued that the system already favors the Democratic Party, and that the new ruling bloc must assume control to achieve balance.
The Thursday compromise comes as the two parties spent weeks without much progress on deciding a new committee composition for the latter half of the 21st National Assembly since late May. The legislative branch has effectively remained stalled since former committee chairs stepped down for new legislators to take over.
The Democratic Party agreed to let the People Power Party take control of the Legislation and Judiciary Committee, but that was the only notably fruitful outcome of the ongoing negotiations until the Thursday deal was announced.
The two parties agreed to work toward completely deciding on committee chair composition by this Sunday and officially launch the second half of the 21st National Assembly as late as next week.
Yet as negotiations are yet to be finalized, chances remain for the talks to slow down and fail to make any further progress, as past records show the legislative branch had failed to elect new committee chairs for months.
For the latter half of the 14th National Assembly, the then-rival parties took 125 days to elect a new National Assembly speaker and the committee chairs, putting the legislative branch back to work.
The parties spent 57 days to name new committee chairs for the latter half of the previous 20th National Assembly.