Toward a productive legislatureRep. Park Byeong-seug, a six-term lawmaker from the ruling Democratic Party (DP), has been nearly elected National Assembly speaker. After running for the head of the legislature three times in the past, he finally grabbed a chance to take the helm of the 21st National Assembly from June after winning an internal race for the post on Wednesday. Park promised to create a “working Assembly instead of a fighting one” in order to regain lost public trust.
Needless to say, the 20th National Assembly was the worst ever due to unceasing battles between the ruling and opposition parties. Voters in the April 15 parliamentary elections gave a landslide victory to the DP in an ardent prayer for a productive legislature. We hope that Park’s pledges to transform the combative Assembly into a constructive — and effective — venue for the interest of the people are sincere.
Thanks to its overwhelming victory in the general elections, the DP can wield unprecedented power now. For instance, it can pass a number of bills, including disputed budget bills, on its own after bypassing the National Assembly Advancement Act, which bans a majority party from railroading through bills. However, the current situation calls for harmonious leadership transcending partisan interests. If Park chooses to lead the Assembly in a lopsided way to help the ruling party and the Moon Jae-in administration, it will benefit no one.
In his acceptance speech two year ago, Rep. Moon Hee-sang vowed to cooperate with the opposition down the road. But the latter half of the 20th Assembly was stained with sharp confrontation and division because of the Blue House’s persistent pressure on the legislature. As the presidential office often flexed its muscles, the role of the legislature noticeably diminished even to the extent that a former National Assembly speaker now serves as prime minister under President Moon.
The 21st National Assembly starts with unprecedented national division. If Park desires to see cooperation and communication with the opposition, he must uphold the principle of the separation of powers. As the Moon administration approaches the end of its term, the speaker must respect the role of the legislative branch.
As Park, a former JoongAng Ilbo reporter and a moderate, is relatively free from the deep-rooted factionalism in the DP, he can demonstrate flexibility. We hope he turns the Assembly into a place where common sense works. We also expect him to help the legislature put the brakes on the administration’s overbearing governance.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 21, Page 30