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(EDITORIAL from The Korea Herald on June 11)

All News 09:08 June 11, 2016

New speaker
Chung should run Assembly in nonpartisan way

Lawmakers of the 20th National Assembly have completed the election of the new parliamentary leadership with unprecedented swiftness, showing their resolve to make the new Assembly different from previous ones.

On Thursday, they picked Rep. Chung Sye-kyun of the main opposition The Minjoo Party of Korea as the new speaker, while electing Rep. Shim Jae-chul of the ruling Saenuri Party and Rep. Park Joo-sun of the minor opposition People's Party as vice speakers.

The election of the new leadership came two days after the legal deadline. But it was the first time that a new parliamentary leadership was formed after such a short delay.

What made the early leadership election possible was the ruling party's withdrawal from its earlier demand for the speakership. Giving up on the top parliamentary post, the party instead secured the chairmanships of two key standing committees -- the steering and legislative committees.

On top of the two committees, Saenuri took the chairs of six more committees, while the Minjoo Party also secured eight committee chairs. The remaining two went to the People's Party.

The new speaker is a seasoned politician who is serving his sixth term as lawmaker. He is regarded as a moderate among opposition lawmakers, as his nickname, "Mr. Smile," suggests.

In his acceptance speech, Chung pledged to establish a new model of collaboration between the executive and legislative branches. For this, he stressed that the National Assembly should pursue accountability just as the administration does.

He rightly called for efforts by fellow lawmakers to make the National Assembly more accountable to the public, as this is a task they should undertake to restore the public's trust in politics.

While emphasizing accountability, Chung also said the National Assembly should go beyond the role of merely checking and scrutinizing the executive branch. He said the Assembly should assert its authority in handling state affairs and take responsibility for its actions.

Admitting that the Assembly had been seen by the public as a "conflict instigator" rather than a "conflict coordinator," Chung said he would endeavor as speaker to manage conflicts and catalyze social cohesion.

As Chung noted, the National Assembly has been a source of conflicts rather than a solution to conflicts. The 19th Assembly has well illustrated how much harm a conflict-fueling Assembly could inflict upon the nation.

In the three-party system created following the April general election, the speaker's role has become more important than before, as agreements are generally more difficult to reach when there are three players rather than two.

Fortunately, Chung is known for his mediation skills. To make the National Assembly more productive and accountable, the new speaker should play the role of a mediator skillfully and in a nonpartisan way.

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