Arrogant and domineeringKeum Tae-sup, former lawmaker of the ruling Democratic Party (DP), has been punished for voting across party lines. After abstaining from voting on a controversial DP-proposed bill authorizing the government to establish an extraordinary law enforcement agency to investigate high-level government officials, he received a warning from the ethics committee of the party on Monday. The act of penalizing a party member for voting across party lines is not democratic. Rep. Cho Eung-cheon, a two-term lawmaker of the DP and a former prosecutor, even lamented the party’s ruthless disciplinary action on Keum.
The censure is obviously retaliation for the former lawmaker’s opposition to the establishment of an investigative authority separate from the prosecution. Keum also criticized justice minister nominee Cho Kuk at a confirmation hearing last year. If rebuking Keum — even after he lost a nomination race for the April 15 parliamentary elections — is not an act of arrogance, what would be? That censure could serve as an effective warning to lawmakers-elect of the party not to stray from party lines whenever they vote in the next four years.
After winning a super majority of 177 seats in the 300-member legislature in April, the DP leadership warned against hubris. Chairman Lee Hae-chan confessed to more than 100 lawmakers-elect: “The ruling Uri Party [2004-2007] pushed our way regardless of opposition. We were not humble at the time.”
Chastising Keum is just the tip of the iceberg. Despite public outrage over Rep. Yoon Mee-hyang’s alleged misuse of public donations for her comfort women advocacy group, the DP still embraces her. The party is attempting to reverse a Supreme Court ruling against former prime minister Han Myeong-sook for taking bribes through a retrial. The secretary general of the DP insists that the party head all standing committees of the National Assembly. The DP has threatened to open the new Assembly even without the participation of opposition parties.
Rep. Choi Kang-wook, a lawmaker-elect of a satellite party of the ruling party, is outrageous. Despite his indictment on charges of issuing a fake certificate for former justice minister Cho’s son for college applications, Choi wants to serve on the Legislation and Judiciary Committee, a source of potential conflict of interest. On trial Tuesday, he nonchalantly asked the chief judge if he could leave the court for a news conference in the legislature.
Even with 177 seats, the DP can fall apart anytime if it gets swollen-headed, as it did before. The reprimand of Keum violates our Constitution which allows lawmakers to cast votes by their conscience. The ruling party must seriously reflect on its attitude.