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Assembly split as Democratic Party of Korea snatches control of key committees

Close aides of opposition leader Rep. Lee Jae-myung tapped as chairs

June 11, 2024 - 15:56 By Jung Min-kyung By Kim Arin
Woo Won-sik, the National Assembly speaker, approves the Democratic Party of Korea-led picks for chairs of standing committees in a plenary session held late Monday. (Yonhap)

The ruling People Power Party on Tuesday protested the Democratic Party of Korea unilaterally picking the chairs of key standing committees of the National Assembly late Monday.

The Democratic Party once again used its majority in the Assembly to convene a plenary session and appoint the chairs of 11 out of the 18 committees without involving the ruling party.

Last week, the Democratic Party left out the ruling party in electing the Assembly speaker, marking the first such instance in the history of the Constitution.

“The Democratic Party is taking over the Assembly, and they are doing this for the purpose of defending their legally troubled leader Rep. Lee Jae-myung from taking accountability,” the ruling party floor leader, Rep. Choo Kyung-ho, told reporters Tuesday.

Lee, who is a defendant in corruption cases from his time as the governor of Gyeonggi Province, has been attending trials almost every week since last year.

Among the committees the Democratic Party has chosen to chair are the Legislative and Judiciary Committee and the House Steering Committee -- the two committees considered to be most powerful as they review and approve bills put to vote in the Assembly.

The chairs of the legislative and steering committees are Reps. Jung Chung-rae and Park Chan-dae, respectively, both of whom are known to be close to the Democratic Party leader, Lee

Choo worried that the Democratic Party, which currently holds 175 seats in the 300-member Assembly, may continue to exclude the other major party and make unilateral decisions.

“This is not how democracy works in the Assembly. We cannot and will not partake in the Democratic Party’s disregard for democracy,” the ruling party floor leader said.

The People Power Party also blamed the newly elected Assembly speaker, Woo Won-shik, for approving the Democratic Party action on Monday despite the ruling party having been unable to participate.

The Democratic Party in a leadership meeting held Tuesday threatened to take the chair posts of the remainder of the standing committees if the People Power Party refused to accept the appointments made the previous day.

Strong criticism came from Oh Se-hoon, the People Power Party mayor of Seoul, who characterized the Democratic Party’s move as a scheme to bolster the party leader’s chances in the presidential election three years away.

“It is the National Assembly’s great tradition to let the major party with fewer seats lead the legislative committee to allow politics of cooperation,” Oh wrote on Facebook on Monday.

The mayor accused the Democratic Party of trying to establish a “dictatorship in the Assembly.”