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(LEAD) Nat'l Assembly picks Chung Sye-kyun as speaker

All News 16:50 June 09, 2016

(ATTN: RECAST headline; ADDS photo, details throughout)

SEOUL, June 9 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's National Assembly picked six-term main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea lawmaker Chung Sye-kyun as its new speaker Thursday after parties reached a deal on the parliamentary formation issue earlier in the week.

Rep. Chung was voted in as the speaker for the first half of the 20th National Assembly at the plenary session of parliament. Chung will be obligated to sever party ties during his two-year term.

The appointment of the speaker, which was deadlocked after the new parliament began its four year term on May 30, came about after the ruling Saenuri Party agreed to let Minjoo take the speaker's post on Wednesday. In exchange, it secured the right to appoint the chairs for the critical house steering and legislation committees. The latter, in particular, can hold up bills from being put to a vote in the plenary session.

Saenuri and Minjoo had been fighting over the speaker post, especially as the April 13 election showed no concrete winner. Saenuri won 122 seats compared to the Minjoo's 123 in the 300-seat unicameral parliament with the rest being taken by minor parties and independents.

"I wanted to become the speaker as I believed this would be the best opportunity for me to do what I can for the country, parliament and our party," Chung said after the nomination, adding the parliament is facing a grave period amid signs of economic crisis and the incumbent administration inability to push for change.

Besides the speakers, lawmakers voted for Saenuri's Rep. Shim Jae-chul and People's Party tapped Rep. Park Joo-sun as the new vice speakers. Shim is a five-term lawmaker while Park has been elected four times.

Following Chung's inauguration, Saenuri and Minjoo now hold an equal number of seats in the National Assembly. Saenuri can again become the No. 1 party in parliament if a handful of independent lawmakers join the party.

colin@yna.co.kr
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