UPP’s Lee hopes to join Foreign Affairs Committee

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UPP’s Lee hopes to join Foreign Affairs Committee

As the National Assembly nearly completed its selections for standing committee heads, a progressive lawmaker, under pressure to give up his seat for primary rigging and his pro-Pyongyang stance, expressed hope yesterday to join the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee.

Representative Lee Seok-gi of the Unified Progressive Party told journalists yesterday that he wants to become a member of the committee that handles North Korea issues as well as foreign and trade affairs with other countries.

“I think someone with a clear philosophy and vision for the unification issues should win the upcoming presidential election,” Lee said on a televised news broadcast. “If possible, I have an earnest hope to join the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee.”

The 50-year-old first-term lawmaker is under snowballing pressure to step down as an internal probe by the UPP discovered massive primary rigging to make him a priority proportional representative candidate.

Lee is also known as a North Korea sympathizer, and the conservatives have argued that he is unfit to be a lawmaker. It appeared to be unlikely that Lee’s aspiration will be realized, as National Assembly Speaker Kang Chang-hee, who has the power to assign lawmakers from non-negotiation groups, is unwilling to grant the lawmaker’s wish.

Under the National Assembly Act, any political party with at least 20 members shall organize a negotiation group. It is also possible for at least 20 lawmakers who do not belong to other negotiation groups to organize one on their own. The ratio of members belonging to a negotiation group is used as the basis for appointing members to a standing committee or a special committee.

The ruling Saenuri Party and the largest opposition Democratic United Party have created negotiation groups with enough lawmakers, but the UPP has failed to so. It won 13 seats in the 300-member National Assembly.

While it remains to be seen which standing committee Lee will eventually be assigned to, the legislature almost finalized the selection of the standing committees yesterday. The Saenuri Party lawmakers will chair 10 standing committees, while the Democratic United Party will head eight.

The Saenuri Party’s floor leader, Representative Lee Hahn-koo, will chair the House Steering Committee, while other three-term lawmakers were assigned to chair the rest including the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee and the Intelligence Committee. As two lawmakers wanted to head the National Defense Committee, the party will arrange a vote among its lawmakers today.

The DUP decided to appoint Representative Park Young-sun to the Legislation and Judiciary Committee. The ruling and opposition parties fiercely competed for the position to chair the powerful committee, which plays a key role in reviewing and sending bills to the voting session, and the DUP managed to win.

By Ser Myo-ja[myoja@joongang.co.kr ]
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