Assembly mayhem after Na pillories Moon

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Assembly mayhem after Na pillories Moon


Rep. Hong Young-pyo, right, floor leader of the ruling Democratic Party, asks National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang to stop Rep. Na Kyung-won, left, floor leader of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, from continuing to deliver a speech in a plenary session of the National Assembly on Tuesday. [YONHAP]

A leader of the conservative opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) gave a speech lambasting President Moon Jae-in and his North Korea policy, setting off a pitched political battle.

“We no longer want to hear the humiliating rhetoric that the president of South Korea is a chief spokesman for Kim Jong-un,” Rep. Na Kyung-won, floor leader of the LKP, said in a speech Tuesday morning at the National Assembly. Lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Party (DP) shouted at her to stop. Some stormed out of the chamber, and Na’s address was interrupted for 40 minutes as politicians from the two parties engaged in a shouting match.

The commotion began about 10 minutes into Na’s speech. Her first criticism was of Moon’s economic policy, and DP lawmakers started audibly complaining. Five minutes later, Na said “Moon’s economic policy is unconstitutional,” and DP lawmakers shouted at her to stop.

After a brief pause, Na continued her speech to further criticize Moon’s North Korea policy.

Stressing that it was confirmed after the second U.S.-North summit in February that Pyongyang has no intention to dismantle its nuclear programs, Na said the Moon administration’s North Korea policy is a “risk gamble.”

“It is embarrassing to see endless, groundless defenses for the North,” she said, adding that the LKP no longer want to hear that President Moon is a mouthpiece for the North Korean leader.

Na demanded top foreign affairs and security aides be replaced.

DP lawmakers exploded.

Rep. Hong Young-pyo, the DP’s floor leader, approached the podium and asked National Assembly speaker Moon Hee-sang to stop her speech. Other LKP lawmakers rushed to stop Hong, and the chamber fell into turmoil.

Amid loud bickering, speaker Moon urged Na to continue her speech, while asking lawmakers to remain calm. Lecturing the lawmakers about democracy, he said, “She, indeed, made a controversial remark, but our politics are mature enough to handle this.”

Lawmakers, then, became quiet, and Na resumed her speech only after complaining that the speaker was clearly siding with the DP, of which he used to be a member.

It took Na one hour and 10 minutes to finish her address, which originally was to take 30 minutes.

Following the chaotic session, the DP and the Blue House did not hide their anger at Na.

“Na’s remark is not only an insult to the head of state but also an insult to people who desire peace on the Korean Peninsula,” said Han Jung-woo, deputy presidential spokesman. “I would advise her to not waste her energy on offending the people and the head of state.”

Han demanded apologies from the LKP and Na.

The ruling party held an emergency lawmakers’ meeting after the speech and decided to ask the National Assembly’s Special Committee on Ethics to consider disciplinary action against Na. “She is guilty of contempt of the head of state,” DP Chairman Lee Hae-chan said. “The party must have a legal review and send her case to the ethics committee.”

Rep. Hong, Na’s DP counterpart, said the party wants to hold her accountable for causing a fuss in the legislature and splitting public opinion. “We will ask the ethics committee to review her remark based on Article 146 of the National Assembly Act which bans insulting remarks inside the legislature,” he said.

The LKP, as well as Na, said her speech was referencing a description of Moon in the foreign media. On Sept. 26 last year, Bloomberg released an analysis piece entitled “South Korea’s Moon Becomes Kim Jong-un’s Top Spokesman at UN.”

The piece said while Kim was not attending the UN General Assembly at the time, “he had what amounted to be a de facto spokesman singing his praises: South Korean Moon Jae-in.” It also said Moon tried to persuade skeptics of Kim and talked about Kim’s strong will to develop the North Korean economy.

The piece stirred controversy at the time and many conservative politicians quoted it to criticize Moon’s North Korea policy.

“What Na said today is a well-known expression from a foreign media report,” Rep. Jun Hee-kyung, spokeswoman for the LKP, said Tuesday. “She was saying that Moon must do better to avoid the label. But the DP cannot accept this message, showing that it is dictatorial and a destroyer of parliamentary democracy.”

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