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(EDITORIAL from Korea Herald on June 8)

All News 07:10 June 08, 2016

Row over posts
: Parties should normalize Assembly operations quickly

The 20th National Assembly convened its first session Tuesday, but lawmakers are sitting idle as rival parties have failed to reach an agreement on the election of the new Assembly leadership and committee chiefs.

The law on the operation of parliament stipulates that the election of the speaker and vice speaker should be held on the first day of the first extraordinary session convened after the general election for Assembly members.

The law also says the election of heads of the 18 standing committees should be held within three days from the opening day of the first extraordinary session.

But these rules have never been observed since they were introduced in 1994. This time is no exception. The three major parties -- the ruling Saenuri Party, the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea and the minor opposition People’s Party -- have been unable to agree on how to share the major Assembly posts among themselves.

The key bone of contention is which party should take the speakership. Saenuri's floor leader, Rep. Chung Jin-suk, at first suggested the party would allow the Minjoo Party to assume the important post, as the opposition party emerged as the largest party in the April election.

But Chung later changed his mind, apparently under pressure from President Park Geun-hye. He justified his change of stance by noting that speakers have traditionally been picked from among ruling party lawmakers.

The Minjoo Party blames the ruling party for the delay in electing the new Assembly leadership. Yet the People's Party asserts the bigger opposition party is also to blame, as it lays claim to too many committee chairs.

As the largest party, the Minjoo Party demands not just the speakership but the chairmanships of key committees, including the steering, budget and national policy committees.

The wrangling over Assembly positions is due partly to the lack of clear rules regarding their allocation. The current National Assembly Act only sets out the deadlines for the election of the Assembly leadership and committee heads without offering rules on how to allocate the posts to parties.

To avoid the row over Assembly posts, it is necessary to create specific rules, such as, "The speakership goes to the party with the largest number of parliamentary seats."

The tug of war over parliamentary offices could be prolonged as the three parties are keen to gain an advantage in the presidential election slated for December 2017.

Yet they should endeavor to live up to the high expectations that the public holds for the new Assembly. People expect lawmakers of the 20th Assembly to think and behave differently from those of the previous one.

Furthermore, the Korean economy is facing many problems that need to be addressed urgently. The Assembly should begin normal operations as early as possible to ensure that lawmakers can tackle them at the right time.

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