A very demanding oppositionAfter President Park Geun-hye’s address to the National Assembly yesterday, the opposition camp’s resentment only grew even bigger. The main opposition Democratic Party held a rally to protest the government shortly after her speech and refused to join in a standing committee’s probe into a civilian chopper’s deadly crash into a high-rise apartment building in Seoul. The DP also decided to submit a proposal to dismiss the heads of the National Intelligence Service, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs. The alarming development heralds a delay in the government’s passing of next year’s budget.
The opposition party demands that a special prosecutor be set up to deal with government agencies’ alleged intervention in last year’s presidential campaign and start a special committee for NIS reform. Although the president expressed a willingness to accept a bilateral agreement if it’s reached between the ruling and opposition parties, the DP still insists that the president must first establish her position on the issues and then persuade the ruling Saenuri Party to accommodate its demands.
Legally, introduction of a special prosecutor falls under the jurisdiction of the legislature. So if the Assembly reaches an agreement, the president can’t veto it. But no special prosecutor has even been appointed to investigate a case awaiting a court judgment. Suspicions over the Cyber War Command’s involvement in the election are also under investigation by military authorities. If the opposition presses ahead with an independent probe under such circumstances, it will inevitably cause a serious logjam in governance.
The issue of how to reform the NIS can now be discussed at a special committee as the Saenuri Party has accepted the opposition’s demand. When the spy agency sends ideas for its reform, they can fully discuss them. The spy agency must present a detailed road map for reform in a constructive way. But lawmakers must ensure that the spy agency’s activities be fully protected in the course of this process.
The Saenuri Party also must press the government to get to the bottom of all the suspicions and not just refuse the special prosecutor without reason. Now that the party accepted the opposition’s demand for a special committee, the ruling party must do its best to devise one of the most far-sighted reform plans for the future. That could help restore the legislature’s power to keep the administration in check.