Speaker’s neutrality is now under threat

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Speaker’s neutrality is now under threat

 The National Assembly speaker in theory has been non-partisan for 20 years in South Korea for the sake of fairness and neutrality. Then Speaker Lee Man-sup, who institutionalized the system, said whenever he tapped the gavel, he looked first at the side of the ruling party, then the opposition, and the people. That should be the attitude of the speaker.
But not all speakers live up to these expectations. National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-seug aided the Democratic Party’s railroading of bills stripping of investigative powers from prosecutors. Even in that case, the speaker apparently seemed to maintain a balance between the rivaling parties.  
But the DP in the process of electing the next speaker has demeaned the neutrality principle from the beginning. Five-term lawmakers Kim Jin-pyo, Lee Sang-min, Cho Jeong-sik and four-term Rep. Woo Sang-ho are vying for the position. More candidates could come forward. The candidates all vow to serve the DP.  
Candidates have usually been coordinated according to seniority and elected term. But the race for the speaker position is looking more like a contest for the floor leader’s title.
Kim said the DP must uphold “dream and hope through the National Assembly,” arguing it was the “duty and fate” of the DP as a majority to keep the Yoon Suk-yeol administration with “merciless law enforcement power” in check. Kim was one of the strong champions of the bills to weaken the prosecution. He was deployed to the Legislative and Judiciary Committee as the coordination chair to block review demand from the People Power Party(PPP).
Cho argued the DP’s biggest weapon was “the National Assembly to protect the people and democracy against the Yoon Suk-yeol administration.” He vowed not to forget he is a member of the DP after he becomes the speaker and to carry out his duty based on the virtues of the DP. Woo also vowed to do his job and keep the president in check.
All comments go against the principle of fairness and neutrality. The next speaker would be heading an unprecedented legislature with opposing lawmakers making up a bulky majority. The DP has broken its promise to hand over the chairmanship of the Legislative and Judiciary Committee to the PPP in the second half of the current Assembly term. It is out to contain and counter the Yoon’s executive branch through its legislative command. If the speaker entirely favors the party with 167 seats, state affairs that require legislative approval could be destabilized.
Candidates and DP members must look back at the National Assembly Act. Article 10 states that the speaker represents the National Assembly, keep the legislature in order and supervise administrative affairs. He or she does not represent a certain party. 
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