Assembly speaker struggling to unite rival parties
National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang and leaders of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) and three other opposition parties held their first meeting at the JW Marriott Hotel Seoul, Friday. But main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) leader Hwang Kyo-ahn did not attend the meeting citing a “busy schedule.”
Moon and the four party leaders including Rep. Lee Hae-chan of the DPK, Sohn Hak-kyu of the Bareunmirae Party, Rep. Sim Sangjung of the Justice Party and Rep. Chung Dong-young of the Party for Democracy and Peace, agreed on the establishment of a working group to push for reform plans including key judiciary and election bills that had been placed on the fast track on April 30. The working group would consist of six members recommended by the speaker and five leaders of the main and opposition parties.
“Leaders of the main and opposition parties spoke frankly on various pending issues and agreed to hold detailed discussions on specific agenda such as reform bills put on the fast track at the next meeting when Hwang would also attend,” National Assembly spokesman Han Min-soo told reporters after the meeting, which had been held behind closed doors. They will continue to hold closed-doors meetings in order to facilitate real discussions.
But such efforts to bridge gaps between the parties are likely to face a bumpy road. Moon was reportedly considering submitting the judiciary reform bills to the Assembly’s plenary session late this month due to the LKP’s opposition to it. According to the National Assembly Act, a bill placed on the fast track goes through 180 days of discussions in a standing committee in charge of it, followed by 90 days of discussions at the Legislation and Judiciary Committee before being submitted to the plenary session. Another 60 days of discussions would follow the plenary session.
The current conflict between the DPK and LKP started early this year, when they were tussling at the National Assembly over fast-tracking the judiciary and election reform bills. LKP lawmakers made all-out efforts to oppose it, but the DPK and the three smaller parties pushed ahead with it.
The judiciary reform bills include establishing a special unit to investigate corruption allegations against high-ranking government and public officials, independent from the prosecution, and enhancing the police’s investigative authority, such as giving the police the right to close a case, to enable the police and the prosecution to hold each other in check.
The second meeting for political negotiations among Moon and party leaders is expected to be held after Moon’s overseas trip. Moon will be heading to Belgrade, Serbia, Oct. 13, to attend the 141st Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly held from Oct. 13 to 14. Moon will also visit Azerbaijan and Georgia before coming back to Seoul on Oct. 21.
The working-level talks among the parties are expected to be held in the meantime.
Meanwhile, the election reform bills have already been passed to the Legislation and Judiciary Committee from the special committee for political reforms as of Aug. 29.
Rep. Na Kyung-won, floor leader of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party speaks during a rally against the Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss an arrest warrant for Justice Minister Cho Kuk’s brother, at the Supreme Court in Seocho, Seoul, Friday.