A mammoth party off the hook

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A mammoth party off the hook

After Yoon Suk-yeol from the People Power Party (PPP) was sworn in as president on Tuesday, the Democratic Party (DP) commanding 168 seats in the 300-member National Assembly has become the biggest opposition in Korea’s modern history. Meanwhile, the PPP holds the smallest number of seats — 109 — in the legislature.

Korea has never experienced such an unbalanced composition of legislative power since the Constitutional amendment in 1987 to adopt the direct presidential election system.

Such discrepancy between the executive branch and legislative branch poses a myriad of troubles to the PPP in effectively running the country, as the DP retains the power to block the government from doing whatever it wants. Despite the PPP’s vehement opposition to the DP-proposed bills aimed at scrapping the prosecution of its investigative authority, the DP unilaterally passed them earlier this month. It doesn’t matter what the party targets. It can stop the government from passing budget bills or any other urgent bills.

There are ominous signs already. President Yoon Suk-yeol has named 20 vice ministers in 15 government offices so as not to cause any vacuum running his administration. Normally, vice ministerial-level appointments are made after their immediate bosses are appointed — or about 10 days into a new government. But the appointments were made on Monday — a day before Yoon’s presidency started — because confirmation hearings for government ministers were delayed over and over after the DP found fault with several nominees. The DP put off confirmation hearings to concentrate on passing the controversial bills aimed to deprive prosecutors of their investigative powers.

The DP now wants to chair the Legislation and Judiciary Committee, responsible for a last-minute review of any bills before the legislature submit them to a plenary session. After commanding 180 seats in the parliamentary elections on April 15, 2020, the DP dominated the chairmanship of 18 standing committees, including the Legislation and Judiciary Committee. The DP promised to surrender the committee chair’s seat to the PPP in the second half of this year, but now claims the seat must stay with the DP. It is poised to press ahead with the legislation of contentious revisions to the Public Broadcasting Act, the Media Regulatory Act and another bill banning any type of discrimination in our society.

The DP has lost the March 9 presidential election despite former President Moon Jae-in’s approval rating of over 40 percent and its solid command over the legislature and local governments. If the DP keeps up with such unilateral and arrogant ways, it will receive backlash.
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