Chairmanship too early to push

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Chairmanship too early to push

In negotiations with the ruling Saenuri Party to convene the 19th National Assembly, the major opposition Democratic United Party has demanded that a chairmanship of a standing committee be allotted to the minor opposition Unified Progressive Party. Currently with 16 standing committees and two special committees under its umbrella, the Assembly has traditionally assigned chairmanships of standing committees according to the seats each party obtained from elections, so the Saenuri Party is expected to have 10 chairmanships and the DUP eight. The DUP appears to have made such a proposal as an extension of the April 11 legislative election in which it formed a strategic alliance with the UPP to beat the ruling party.

The Saenuri Party argues that a party with less than 20 seats - a minimum requirement for a legislative bargaining position in the Assembly - has customarily not been granted a chairmanship. In fact, the issue of assigning a chairmanship to the UPP should be determined by the standards of public trust and political credibility rather than by the capacity to form an alliance with other parties big enough to meet the minimum requirement.

The UPP is under investigation by the prosecution for charges of massive vote rigging in a primary to pick proportional representatives before the April election. Some lawmakers-elect, including Lee Seok-gi from the mainstream faction, even served jail terms for their pro-North Korea activities in 1980s. Even though Lee was granted pardon and later reinstated, a multitude of our citizens still believe that he has not given up his pro-North philosophies, even amid persistent public distrust.

Standing committee chairmanships are influential posts in the Assembly, as they exercise huge power on how to steer the committees. For example, the North Korea Human Rights Bill which the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee passed in the 18th Assembly, was later repealed because the Legislation and Judiciary Committee chairman from the opposition DUP refused to submit the bill to his committee. Standing committee chairmanships should be held by politicians who can earn the public’s trust for their orientations on such critical issues as national security.

The UPP has a long way to go. It must first address its shameful past by fully cooperating with the prosecution, not to mention clearing suspicion of its members’ blind respect for North Korea. The question of allotting a chairmanship comes next.

19대 국회 개원협상에서 민주당이 통합진보당에게 상임위원장 1석을 할애해야 한다는 요구를 새누리당에 제기했다고 한다. 현재 협상대상은 상임위 16개와 특위 2개다. 한국 국회에서는 여야가 의석비율에 따라 배분해왔다. 19대에는 새누리당 10, 민주당 8석으로 예상된다. 민주당은 지난 4·11 총선 야권연대 연장선상에서 ‘진보당 상임위원장 1석’을 제안한 것이다.
새누리당은 “원내교섭단체(20석 이상)가 아닌 정당은 상임위원장을 맡지 않는 게 관례”라고 주장한다. 사실, ‘진보당 상임위원장’은 교섭단체 여부보다 국민의 신뢰와 정치적 보편성으로 따져야 한다. 진보당은 현재 비례대표 경선부정 혐의로 검찰수사를 받고 있다. 압수수색까지 당했다. 그리고 이석기 등 일부 당선인은 과거 종북(從北)활동으로 징역을 살았다. 그가 사면·복권됐지만 많은 국민은 여전히 그가 종북 이념에서 벗어났다는 신뢰를 주지 못하고 있다. 총체적으로 진보당은 ‘국민 불신’의 한 가운데에 있는 것이다.
상임위원장은 국회 요직이다. 법안 상정을 비롯해 상임위 운영에 막대한 권한을 갖고 있다. 18대 국회에서 통일외무위가 북한인권법안을 통과시켰지만 민주당소속 법사위원장이 법사위에 상정하지 않아 법안이 자동 폐기된 사례가 있다. 이토록 중요한 상임위원장은 국가안보의식과 경력 등에서 국민 신뢰를 받을 수 있는 지도자급 인격을 갖춰야 한다.
통합진보당은 현재 거대한 혼란에 빠져있다. 혁신한다지만 아직은 상임위원장을 요구할 만큼 국민 신뢰를 얻지 못하고 있다. 일단 검찰수사에 협조해 경선부정을 책임 있게 처리해야 한다. 그리고 일부 세력의 종북 혐의도 정리되어야 한다. 그런 연후에야 상임위원장 문제의 검토가 가능할 것이다.
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