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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on June 4)

All News 07:10 June 04, 2020

No unilateral push
Ruling party should embrace opposition

Having a dominant majority must be a confidence booster. That is how it looks for the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) as with its 177 seats the party is seeking to unilaterally open the new National Assembly, Friday.

The Assembly, by law, must hold its opening session within a week of its inauguration; and the new speaker and vice speakers must also be chosen at this session.

Previous Assemblies in Korea have delayed the commencement of proceedings as the ruling and opposition parties wrangled over the leaders and membership of committees. In that sense, the hurried steps to hold the opening session Friday and fill the 18 standing committees could be commendable.

But there is still room and time for the DPK to work together with the main opposition United Future Party (UFP). We hope both the rival parties will compromise to start the legislative process together.

The DPK with its super majority would do well to accommodate some of the UFP's demands. A slew of bills to fight against COVID-19 and minimize its economic fallout ― including this year's third supplementary budget bill worth 35.3 trillion won (US$29 billion) ― are pending approval at the 21st National Assembly.

The DPK and the UFP are jostling mainly over who helms two key committees ― the Legislation and Judiciary Committee and the Special Committee on Budget and Accounts.

In principle, the DPK, as the governing party, can head both committees, especially if Speaker-designate Park Byeong-seug is confirmed at the opening session. But since the 17th Assembly, a lawmaker of the main opposition party has led the Legislation and Judiciary Committee.

DPK floor leader Kim Tae-nyeon said holding the opening session on time was not subject to negotiations. In response, UFP floor leader Joo Ho-young condemned the unilateral move, comparing it to a dictatorship.

Some of the DPK's recent steps such as a pledge by Chairman Lee Hae-chan to correct past historical distortions here can come across as unilateral. Also, the DPK's ethics committee last month issued a warning against former legislator Keum Tae-sup for voting across party lines in the just concluded 20th Assembly on the establishment of a separate anti-corruption body to investigate high-ranking officials. This harsh disciplinary action runs counter to a lawmaker's right to cast a vote according to their conscience as guaranteed under the Constitution and the National Assembly Act.

The two rival parties must try to find a compromise. The country is struggling with an unprecedented public health and economic crisis. So it is crucial for them to get beyond partisanship and form bipartisanship to better cope with the coronavirus pandemic and its crippling impact on the economy.

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