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Speaker’s duty not yet done

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Dec 30,2009
The National Assembly Speaker Kim Hyung-o has said he would resign if a budget bill isn’t passed this year. When a provisional budget is implemented, that will indicate that the National Assembly has stopped functioning, and Kim said he is willing to take responsibility. He has argued that the leaders of both the ruling and opposition parties must also take responsibility and step down.

Kim’s pledge can be understood as emphasizing how important it is that political parties prevent the unprecedented use of a provisional budget.

But the head of the legislative branch shouldn’t put his job on the line so easily.

The speaker of the National Assembly is the guardian of the spirit of parliamentary democracy and the National Assembly Law. The speaker must oversee and preserve the lawmaking process so that bills are passed in accordance with principles of parliamentary democracy and related law. And it behooves the speaker to maintain order during this process.

To carry out this duty, the speaker is provided with the right to host sessions, to introduce bills and to maintain order.

When the review process or the speaker’s rights are violated, then the speaker must correct the situation. That is his duty. When the conference room is forcibly occupied, then he must invoke the right to restore order under Article 143 of the National Assembly Law. If a standing committee or a special budget committee is unable to pass an important bill, the Speaker must exercise his right to introduce it directly.

But Kim has already declared that he would not directly introduce the budget bill because, he said, such a move would be unprecedented. But the reason there’s no precedent is that previous speakers were never forced to exercise that right. If there is no other option, then the given bill must be introduced directly.

The budget bill doesn’t just affect legislators’ financial planning - it has to do with the livelihood of the entire nation. Passing the budget bill isn’t simply a right for the Speaker, it’s a duty.

We have been critical of lawmakers who threatened to resign on a whim. Kim himself has said such practices aren’t desirable, but now he himself makes light of his own job.

We would like to see a speaker who agonizes over his duties and responsibilities and who tries to execute them, rather than one who engages in political maneuvering.

The head of the legislative branch should protect his seat. If he is to collapse, he’s got to do so from his chair. Perhaps Kim brought up the resignation card as a desperate measure to resolve the stalemate, but it may also be seen as a way for him to pass the buck.



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