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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on July 30)

All News 07:16 July 30, 2020

Ramrodding Assembly
DPK should not adopt 'winner-take-all' formula

A 176-seat majority in the National Assembly can achieve a lot of things, we are finding out. When the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) won the majority in the April 15 general election, and then later appointed its own lawmakers as heads of all 18 of the National Assembly's standing committees, the party's dominance was sealed.

It was discomforting to see the ruling party move so swiftly and unilaterally to pass through 13 bills in a day Tuesday via the Strategy and Finance Committee; the Land, Infrastructure and Transport Committee; and the Public Administration and Security Committee. Heralding the urgency to address escalating housing market prices, the DPK ramrodded through 11 bills related specifically to this. The ruling party has vowed to put them to a final vote at a plenary session scheduled for Aug. 4.

Requests from the other side of the aisle ― from the main opposition United Future Party (UFP) ― for a thorough review and debate were in effect ignored.

The housing issue is paramount but the ostensible lack of willingness to work with its partners makes one wonder if the DPK is celebrating its unprecedented "sweep" of the standing committees, a dominance unseen since 1985. Or is it that the lawmakers are heeding President Moon Jae-in's calls, who in his National Assembly speech this month, asked for bipartisan cooperation to stabilize housing prices.

The best UFP lawmakers can do to check the ruling party's ramrodding is by refusing to participate in votes, as they did at the three committee meetings. The UFP only holds 103 seats, just barely enough to deter a revision to the Constitution.

Speed at times could be a critical element for a good, functioning legislative process. More important however is due process and debate as detailed in law to ensure that the final bill fulfills the goal originally behind its proposal. It would not serve the public well if one specific party "dominates" even the procedural aspects of the legislature. The constituents who might beg to differ with the ruling party's policy stances will find themselves growing anxious as to whether any of their voices will be represented.

The recent parliamentary confirmation hearings of Unification Minister Lee In-young and National Intelligence Service chief Park Jie-won ended with President Moon appointing them to their jobs despite the UFP's protestations.

Cabinet members such as Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae, as if to drive home the point of the ineffectiveness of other parties in the National Assembly, have demonstrated a high-handed arrogance in their comments and responses to uncomfortable questions from opposition lawmakers.

The worrisome part of this exhibition of the super majority party's muscle-flexing is that it is expected to continue. Korea's ruling parties have often adopted the "winner-take-all" sentiment. But it would be in the interests of both the DPK, the legislature and the nation to remember that true winners do not take all.

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