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[Editorial] Shameless trips

Opposition lawmakers convene Assembly session to vote on Lee, then travel abroad

March 14, 2023 - 05:30 By Korea Herald

The majority opposition Democratic Party of Korea convened a monthlong provisional session of the National Assembly beginning on the March 1 Independence Movement Day, and then scores of its lawmakers traveled abroad.

It is the first time in Korean constitutional history that an Assembly session was convened on the statutory holiday.

All of the party’s 169 lawmakers requested the March session on Feb. 24. Under the Assembly Act, a provisional session must be convened when requested by more than a quarter of incumbent lawmakers. The Assembly has 300 seats.

But the Assembly was empty all day on March 1. No standing committees were held, not to mention the plenary session.

The Better Future, the party’s largest discussion group of its lawmakers, said that about 20 members of the group would go on a two-night, three-day trip to Vietnam for a workshop. They left the country on March 2, the day after the holiday.

But contrary to their explanation that they had debated the future of the party, they were found to have spent considerable time of their trip seeing sights including touristic highlight Halong Bay.

According to Weekly Chosun, some 30 figures -- not about 20 -- went on the Vietnam trip. Undisclosed figures included former high-ranking officials of the Moon Jae-in administration -- former Minister of Education Yoo Eun-hye, Bae Jae-jung, former chief of staff to Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon, and Park Soo-hyun, former senior presidential secretary for public communication for Moon.

Also, the workshop schedule was three nights and four days, not two nights and three days. They departed on March 2 and returned home on March 5.

Kang Hoon-sik, leader of the group, said they debated the future of the party intensely for more than four hours every night, but that is questionable.

According to media, on March 3 they stayed at the hotel for a while, went outside for dinner and returned. They moved together in a large bus. On March 4, they left for Halong Bay, about a three-hour drive from the hotel, at 7:30 a.m., returned at around 6 p.m., had dinner at a Korean restaurant outside the hotel and returned to the hotel at around 8 p.m.

It is hard to understand why they debated the future of the party after convening an Assembly session to process urgent public livelihood bills. And in Vietnam at that.

Three Democratic Party lawmakers of the Science, ICT, Broadcasting and Communications Committee of the National Assembly -- Chairperson Jung Chung-rae, Ko Min-jung and Jo Seoung-lae -- left for Barcelona, Spain, on Feb. 27 to attend the Mobile World Congress.

On that day, the National Assembly held a plenary session to vote on whether to consent to the court’s pretrial detention hearing of Democratic Party leader Lee Jae-myung. Jung, Ko and Jo left the country after the plenary session.

They say the event is an important exhibition in the telecommunications industry, but People Power Party members of the committee did not join the trip.

Three other lawmakers of the Democratic Party departed for Tokyo on Feb. 28 and returned home on March 2.

The Democratic Party's Assembly Speaker Kim Jin-pyo embarked on a tour of three countries on March 8.

The real reason the party convened the Assembly from March 1 was to allow no single day of recess. In Korea, a lawmaker has the privilege of being able to avoid a pretrial detention hearing depending on the outcome of an Assembly vote in session. The privilege ceases in a recess.

The Assembly has not been in recess for any single day since Lee became leader of the party. It convened a special session in January, though there was no agenda to speak of.

Its lawmakers called a session even on the March 1 holiday and then were absent. After voting on Lee, they left on an overseas trip. They are shameless. At least, they should not have mentioned they were acting “for the sake of public livelihood.”