Wrong place, wrong timeThe 19th National Assembly elected in April opened its first regular session. Both the ruling and opposition parties of the new Assembly promised different types of reform, including a surrender of some of their exclusive prerogatives. But the common goal of reform seems to have gone out the window as the December presidential election approaches nearer. Lawmakers on both sides used the opening to question the government on policy and current issues as a means for negative campaign against opponents.
Representative Shin Sung-bum of the ruling Saenuri Party criticized the unfairness of the opposition Democratic United Party’s open primary system based on online and mobile phone voting. He said the loopholes in the online and mobile vote systems, aimed at including more people, can undermine the party system. How parties proceed with primaries and elect their candidates is their own problem and unrelated to government affairs.
Lawmaker Hong Moon-jong of the same party used his time on the podium to demand an arrest and investigation of DUP floor leader Park Jie-won over allegations of taking bribes from savings bank owners. The prosecution and investigation of politicians should be dealt with in special legislative committees or debated among the parties because it requires legislative approval to arrest a lawmaker.
DUP lawmaker Sul Hoon used his time mainly to point to political motives behind the prosecution’s ongoing investigation into a money-for-nomination scandal among DUP members. He said that Choi Jae-kyung, director of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office that heads the investigation in the case involving Yang Gyeong-suk - former head of the liberal Internet broadcaster Radio 21, who is suspected of receiving bribes from three hopefuls to use her influence to get them DUP nominations - is a cousin of former ruling party member Choi Ku-sik, who is related to Choi Byung-ryul, former party chief and supporter of the party’s presidential candidate Park Geun-hye.
He went into great detail but without evidence and at the same time defamed Choi Ku-sik, who has been cleared of charges of orchestrating a cyberattack during last year’s by-election. He also questioned the qualifications of Park as a ruling party presidential candidate. “How could someone who supported the Park Chung Hee government that undermined civilian and constitutional rights run for president?”
That question should be posed to Park, not the government. Representatives must learn to differentiate their legislative work from electioneering.