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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on May 19)

All News 06:59 May 19, 2022

Disregard for neutrality

Speaker aspirants hit for inciting partisanship

The National Assembly speaker is supposed to remain nonpartisan in order to narrow differences between the ruling and opposition parties and move toward bipartisanship. That's why the speaker needs to operate the legislature in a fair and neutral manner.

Now, some stalwart lawmakers of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) are seeking to run for the post as the outgoing Speaker Park Byeong-seug's term will end on May 29. The candidates are pledging to fight against the Yoon Suk-yeol administration, raising concerns about partisan struggles with the ruling camp.

The majority DPK, which holds 167 seats in the 300-member Assembly, is set to elect a new speaker May 24 during a general meeting of its lawmakers. The new speaker will steer the Assembly for the next two years from June 1.

Five-term lawmakers Kim Jin-pyo, Lee Sang-min, Cho Jeong-sik, and four-term Rep. Woo Sang-ho are competing for the position. Rep. Cho, who threw his hat into the ring first, said, "The National Assembly is the party's strongest 'weapon' in its fight against the Yoon government and protect the people and democracy." Cho pledged to prevent the possible "autocratic" rule by the current administration if he is elected as the speaker.

Rep. Kim also took flak by noting that he would dedicate himself to containing the Yoon government, describing it as the party's mission and fate. "The blood of the DPK runs through my veins," Kim wrote in letters to DPK lawmakers. He vowed to keep Yoon's possible bulldozer-style administration in check and help the party retake power. Their statements are dumfounding as they show they intend to use the Assembly as a tool in their struggle against the government. Their remarks are aimed at wooing support from hardline party members. But they definitely went too far.

The National Assembly Act was revised in 2002 under the Kim Dae-jung administration so that the speaker can have no affiliation with any political party. That was the result of an agreement between the ruling and opposition parties at that time on the need for the speaker to uphold parliamentary democracy. Without taking sides with any party, the speaker is required to operate the Assembly through dialogue and consensus. This is the reason why the speaker should remain nonpartisan.

However, the DPK's speaker aspirants are apparently making little of cooperative ties with the minority parties, including the ruling People Power Party (PPP). Former Speaker Moon Hee-sang pledged "cooperation and unity" when he ran for the position in 2018. The DPK has already come under fire for monopolizing the parliamentary standing committees to railroad bills.

Furthermore, it has now refused to implement its agreement to hand over the chairmanship of the Assembly's Legislative and Judiciary Committee to the PPP for the next two years. The refusal is a sheer violation of the parliamentary principle and tantamount to the tyranny of the majority. The DPK has only shouted an empty slogan of bipartisanship and national unity.

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