Parties wrangle over committees

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Parties wrangle over committees

The three major political parties are wrangling over control of powerful standing committees as they start forming the 20th National Assembly.

The Saenuri Party of President Park Geun-hye, the Minjoo Party of Korea and the newly emerged People’s Party began negotiations Wednesday to decide the heads of the 18 standing committees of the National Assembly.

In the 19th National Assembly, the Saenuri Party named 10 chairmen, while the Minjoo Party named the remaining eight. In the 20th National Assembly, which will start its term on May 30, the Saenuri and Minjoo lawmakers will each chair eight committees, while the People’s Party will chair two based on the proportion of the seats they occupy in the legislature. In the April 13 general election, the Minjoo won 123 seats, the Saenuri 122 and the People’s Party 38. The Justice Party won six and independents won 11.

Among the 18 committees, the Legislation and Judiciary Committee, the gatekeeper bills must pass through before coming up for a vote in a main session, is considered the most powerful. Competition is also fierce among the parties to chair the House Steering Committee, which has the oversight over the presidential office.

After the Saenuri and People’s Parties said the two posts of National Assembly speaker and chairman of the legislation committee should be split between the Saenuri and Minjoo parties, the Minjoo Party said Wednesday that it wants to chair the House Steering Committee.

“The House Steering Committee and the Legislation and Judiciary Committee are like entrance and exit of the National Assembly,” said an associate of Rep. Woo Sang-ho, the new floor leader of the Minjoo. “The ruling and opposition parties must split the roles to ensure checks and balances. If the Saenuri truly wants to chair the Legislation and Judiciary Committee, then we must chair the House Steering Committee.”

The House Steering Committee is responsible for the general operation of the legislature and also oversees the Blue House secretariat and the Presidential Security Service. There is long tradition that the floor leader of the ruling party chairs the committee.

“Since the 13th National Assembly, the chairmen posts of the two committees were split between the ruling and opposition parties,” said Rep. Lee Choon-suak, deputy floor leader of the Minjoo Party. “When one party chairs both committees, any kind of balance will be shaken.”

Another senior Minjoo lawmaker, Rep. You Seung-hee, demanded that her party must chair the Science, ICT, Future Planning, Broadcasting, and Communications Committee to ensure the independence of broadcasters before next year’s presidential election. The Saenuri Party currently chairs the committee.

After indicating it was willing for the Minjoo Party to name the next National Assembly speaker, the Saenuri Party showed a willingness to concede the National Defense Committee and Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee. The strategy was reportedly issued by Chung Jin-suk, the new floor leader.

But it insists on chairing the House Steering Committee; National Policy Committee; Strategy and Finance Committee; Science, ICT, Future Planning, Broadcasting, and Communications Committee and Special Committee on Budget and Accounts. It also said it wants to chair the National Intelligence Committee, and Security and Public Administration Committee, which oversee the National Intelligence Service and the police.

“The negotiation to decide the heads of the House Steering Committee and the Legislation and Judiciary Committee is linked to the National Assembly speaker, so there are many variables,” said Rep. Kim Do-eup, deputy floor leader of the Saenuri. “But the ruling party still needs to chair the House Steering Committee, although it is outnumbered by the opposition.”

The People’s Party said it wants to chair the Agriculture, Food, Rural Affairs, Oceans, and Fisheries Committee and Trade, Industry, and Energy Committee.

While the three major political parties, which succeeded in forming so-called negotiation blocs by each winning more than 20 seats, are participating in the talks, the Justice Party demanded that it be given one chairmanship. “Including the independents, a lawmaker not belonging to a negotiation bloc should be given one chairman post,” it said. “And based on the proportional votes, the Justice Party should also be given one chairmanship.”

It also said a special committee to reform the National Assembly must immediately be created to end the obsolete way of running the legislature and present a changed system to the voters in two years.

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