Assembly leaders return, but end to deadlock far off

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Assembly leaders return, but end to deadlock far off

Even though the leaders of the National Assembly returned from their eight-day trip to the United States on Sunday, the legislature will likely continue to remain mired in a political standstill.

National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang and delegations from the five ruling and opposition parties arrived in the morning after meeting with senior Washington officials, congressional leaders and experts in the United States. Immediately after their return, Moon and the leaders vowed to get the legislature holding sessions again.

Amid political bickering, the National Assembly has failed to hold a session since the end of last year. Yesterday marked the final day of the one-month extraordinary session that began on Jan. 17, but no voting took place during the period. The last voting session was on Dec. 27, 2018.

It remains to be seen if another extraordinary session will be scheduled in the coming days. While the ruling Democratic Party (DP) has demanded a voting session be held, the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) said it will boycott legislative activities unless its demands are met.

The LKP has demanded that an independent counsel be appointed to investigate a series of accusations made by the former Blue House special inspector, Kim Tae-woo. Kim has alleged that the Moon Jae-in administration conducted illegal surveillance activities of civilians.

The LKP also wants a parliamentary investigation into Rep. Sohn Hye-won, formerly of the DP, a close associate of President Moon. She was accused of using inside information to make lucrative property investments in Mokpo, South Jeolla. The LKP also demands the president withdraw his appointment of Cho Hai-ju as a member of the National Election Commission.

The DP said it wants to open a legislative session to pass urgent bills concerning the economy and people’s lives, as well as enact measures to reform law enforcement authorities that were proposed by President Moon. The ruling party, however, said it won’t accept the LKP’s demands.

The DP said political fights must stop and the legislature must get back to normal as soon as possible.

“Not a single voting session took place this year,” said Rep. Kwon Mi-hyuk, spokeswoman for the DP. “The floor leaders of the major parties failed to reach an agreement on scheduling another session. I am worried that the people’s patience is running out.”

She said National Assembly Speaker Moon and Rep. Hong Young-pyo, the DP’s floor leader, have vowed to end the standstill and resume legislative activities this month, and the LKP was also supportive.

“Fortunately, Rep. Na Kyung-won, the floor leader of the LKP, also discussed efforts to normalize the legislature with top legislators during her trip to the United States,” Kwon said.

It still remains to be seen if the ruling and opposition parties will agree to resume legislative activities in the coming weeks. The National Assembly was faced with additional controversy after three LKP lawmakers denigrated the 1980 Gwangju Democratization Movement earlier this month. The DP and other opposition parties have asked the legislature’s ethics committee to hold a disciplinary hearing to expel the three.

Other political schedules are also hindering the lawmakers to jump-start the legislative operation. The North-U.S. summit is taking place on Feb. 27 and 28, and the LKP is also holding a national convention on Feb. 27 to elect new leadership.

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