Reps reach truce in fight over control of committees

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Reps reach truce in fight over control of committees

The floor leaders of ruling and opposition parties on Tuesday agreed to convene a provisional session of the National Assembly starting this week, though they have yet to find a middle ground on how to form parliamentary standing committees.

The session will kick off Friday for a 14-day run, during which confirmation hearings on the national police chief designate and three Supreme Court justice nominees will be held.

The parties failed Monday to conclude talks over the formation of the 18 committees for the second half of the 20th National Assembly’s four-year term. The move left the post of speaker empty for 40 days, the longest vacancy in 20 years.

“We will make every effort to put the National Assembly back on track as soon as possible,” Hong Young-pyo, the floor leader of the ruling Democratic Party (DP), said in a meeting with party officials.

A key point of contention is who will chair the Legislation and Judiciary Committee, a key panel for the passage of bills.

In South Korea’s unicameral parliament, the judiciary committee is playing the role of the Upper House or Senate as it reviews bills before they are sent to a plenary session for approval.

Both the DP and the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) want the chairperson of the judiciary committee. Customarily, a major opposition party leads the committee.

The DP complained about the fact that the committee, headed by the LKP, did not cooperate in approving a set of reform bills sponsored by the government.

The ruling party also raised the need to limit the committee’s authority to review and revise the wording of a bill, saying that the panel sometimes overhauled motions in a way to hamper their original intention.

But the LKP said that it should lead the committee to prevent the ruling party from excessively influencing parliament at a time when the DP commands 130 seats in the 300-member National Assembly.

“This is not an issue about which party chairs the committee, but how to make up for the system’s shortcomings,” Hong said.

“There is no case in the world that a judiciary committee excessively wields power in the name of changing the wording.”

Hong and Kim Sung-tae, the floor leader of the LKP, held a closed-door meeting earlier in the day to discuss the issue, party officials said.

The parties started consultations in late June even though the former speaker’s two-year term ended in May. Opposition parties have also been grappling with their resounding defeat in the June 13 local elections.

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