Rul­ing party mo­nop­oly

DPK rail­roads con­tro­ver­sial real es­tate-re­lated bills

The Korea Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Kim Rahn, Jung Da-min rah­nita@ko­re­atimes.co.kr

The rul­ing Demo­cratic Party of Korea (DPK) passed con­tro­ver­sial bills on real es­tate poli­cies and the es­tab­lish­ment of a spe­cial anti-cor­rup­tion in­ves­tiga­tive body, de­spite protests from the main op­po­si­tion United Fu­ture Party (UFP), at a ple­nary ses­sion held Mon­day.

The re­vi­sions to the real es­tate-re­lated bills call for heav­ier tax­a­tion on ac­qui­si­tion and com­pre­hen­sive real es­tate and cap­i­tal gains taxes on own­ers of mul­ti­ple homes and spec­u­la­tors. The com­pre­hen­sive real es­tate tax rate on own­ers of mul­ti­ple homes will be raised to a max­i­mum 6 per­cent and the ac­qui­si­tion tax rate to 8 per­cent to 12 per­cent on peo­ple who own two or more homes in spec­u­la­tive ar­eas.

While the DPK and other mi­nor par­ties voted to fi­nally pass the bills af­ter they had ear­lier been passed at standing com­mit­tees and the leg­is­la­tion com­mit­tee, the UFP boy­cotted the vot­ing as a show of protest.

But the UFP law­mak­ers did not walk out as they had in the pre­vi­ous ple­nary ses­sions. In­stead, UFP law­mak­ers par­tic­i­pated in the de­bates at the ple­nary ses­sion to de­liver their mes­sage of protest, say­ing the “au­to­cratic” moves by the DPK are ru­in­ing democ­racy.

“The DPK is uni­lat­er­ally push­ing ahead with bills that could bring a serious con­straint on peo­ple’s prop­erty rights, with­out due process or de­bates,” UFP floor leader Rep. Joon Ho-young said at a party meet­ing held ear­lier the same day.

Af­ter the meet­ing, Joo told re­porters, “There was a wide diversity of opin­ion among party mem­bers how we would protest, with some say­ing we should con­duct a fil­i­buster and oth­ers say­ing we should boy­cott the votes af­ter de­liv­er­ing speeches of ob­jec­tion.” He said a ma­jor­ity of party mem­bers sup­ported the lat­ter.

Al­though the UFP boy­cotted the votes for the bills on real es­tate poli­cies and the es­tab­lish­ment of the anti-cor­rup­tion in­ves­tiga­tive body, it par­tic­i­pated in votes for other bills which the par­ties agreed on, such as re­vi­sions to the Na­tional Sports Pro­mo­tion Act to pre­vent abuse of ath­letes, and re­vi­sions for the In­fec­tious Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion Act to bet­ter deal with the COVID-19 pan­demic sit­u­a­tion.

The DPK’s rail­road­ing of con­tro­ver­sial bills is con­tin­u­ing de­spite the strong protest by the UFP, as the for­mer has a su­per­ma­jor­ity with 176 seats out of the 300-strong Na­tional As­sem­bly, while the lat­ter has 103 seats.

The UFP’s ef­forts to over­come the nu­mer­i­cal in­fe­ri­or­ity are hav­ing lit­tle ef­fect as it had ear­lier given up on se­cur­ing chair­per­son­ships on any of the 18 As­sem­bly com­mit­tees af­ter ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the par­ties broke down. Af­ter the DPK pushed ahead with the uni­lat­eral for­ma­tion of the com­mit­tees, the UFP boy­cotted com­mit­tee meet­ings for weeks but re­turned, July 7.

The par­ties, how­ever, con­tin­ued to clash over con­tro­ver­sial bills in­clud­ing those on real es­tate poli­cies and the es­tab­lish­ment of the spe­cial anti-cor­rup­tion body em­pow­ered to in­ves­ti­gate high-ranking of­fi­cials and their fam­ily mem­bers. The DPK rail­roaded them say­ing they were “ur­gent is­sues,” but the UFP strongly op­posed them say­ing the rul­ing party did not ob­serve due process of al­low­ing suf­fi­cient time to dis­cuss them.

Help­less op­po­si­tion

The UFP has re­mained help­less against the su­per­ma­jor­ity DPK rail­road­ing of con­tro­ver­sial bills.

With no ef­fec­tive means to fight back, some hard­line mem­bers sug­gest boy­cotting all Na­tional As­sem­bly ses­sions and in­stead stag­ing street protests — a means of protest which its lead­er­ship hes­i­tates to adopt be­cause such a strat­egy did not work in the pre­vi­ous 20th As­sem­bly.

This sit­u­a­tion was well-ex­pected and the op­po­si­tion party was de­ter­mined to face it when it de­cided not to take the chair­per­son­ship of any of the 18 standing com­mit­tees of the As­sem­bly in protest of the DPK tak­ing the chief po­si­tion at the Leg­is­la­tion and Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, which has tra­di­tion­ally been taken by a main op­po­si­tion party mem­ber to hold the rul­ing bloc in check.

But UFP mem­bers say it is worse than ex­pected, as the rul­ing party rail­roaded con­tro­ver­sial bills on real es­tate poli­cies last week with­out dis­cus­sion by tak­ing ad­van­tage of its con­trol over the rel­e­vant com­mit­tees and its su­per­ma­jor­ity in the As­sem­bly seats.

All the UFP mem­bers could do was leave the com­mit­tee meet­ing rooms and the ple­nary ses­sion cham­ber to boy­cott the vot­ing on the bills in a show of protest.

When giv­ing up on se­cur­ing the chairs of all the com­mit­tees, the UFP sought to arouse pub­lic crit­i­cism that the rul­ing party had “mo­nop­o­lized” the As­sem­bly, but this tac­tic only helped the DPK push ahead with what it wanted. If the main op­po­si­tion party had ac­cepted the DPK’s ini­tial offer to hold chair­per­son­ship of seven com­mit­tees in­stead of giv­ing up the leg­is­la­tion one, in­clud­ing that for the Land, In­fra­struc­ture and Trans­port Com­mit­tee, the UFP could have pre­vented the DPK’s steam­rolling of the real es­tate bills.

Its help­less­ness was also on dis­play when the rul­ing party uni­lat­er­ally ap­proved the nom­i­na­tion of Lee In-young as uni­fi­ca­tion min­is­ter and Park Jie-won as Na­tional In­tel­li­gence Ser­vice di­rec­tor.

Yon­hap

Law­mak­ers at­tend a ple­nary ses­sion at the Na­tional As­sem­bly, Mon­day. The rul­ing Demo­cratic Party of Korea passed con­tro­ver­sial bills in­clud­ing those on real es­tate poli­cies and the es­tab­lish­ment of a spe­cial in­ves­tiga­tive body to look into cor­rup­tion by high-ranking of­fi­cials and their fam­ily mem­bers, de­spite protest by the main op­po­si­tion United Fu­ture Party which boy­cotted votes for the bills.

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