The assembly speaker can’t be partisan

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The assembly speaker can’t be partisan

 Five-term lawmaker Kim Jin-pyo was nominated National Assembly speaker by the Democratic Party (DP), which commands 167 out of 300 seats in the legislature for the next two years. In the nomination competition, Kim won 89 out of 166 votes and beat party rivals Lee Sang-min and Cho Jeong-sik, both five-term lawmakers, and four-term lawmaker Woo Sang-ho. His ascension is likely as it is customary for the Assembly speaker to come from the majority party.  
Kim, 75, should be a good National Assembly speaker considering his vast administrative experience. He has been both finance minister and minister of education. In the liberal party, Kim is considered something of a centrist. He yielded to Park Byeong-seug in an earlier race for the speaker position.
But some recent remarks raise concerns over whether he can be relied upon to fairly referee the bickering legislature. “If selected to the speakership of the National Assembly, I would have to surrender party position and represent the legislature,” he said. “But DP blood runs through me. I will do my utmost for the DP until I leave the party.” During campaigning, he argued the DP must achieve its dreams and hopes through the National Assembly. He joined the judiciary and legislative committees to block objections from the People Power Party to pass bills stripping prosecutors of their investigative powers.  
He may have made such hardline remarks to win an internal party vote for the nomination. But such a mindset is not appropriate for a National Assembly speaker. The speaker has a duty to maintain order and fairness in the legislature. That is precisely why the National Assembly Act requires the speaker to surrender party membership.
South Korea has entered an unfamiliar situation in which the executive and legislative branches are controlled by different parties. If the executive and legislative branches do not cooperate, lawmaking and state affairs could be stalemated. The role of the speaker is more important than ever. Kim must forget he is from the DP and act like a representative of the people and their democratic system.
The new government and the DP must remind themselves of the importance of cooperation. The DP compromised to endorse prime minister nominee Han Duck-soo. It should yield the chair of the judiciary and legislative committee to the PPP as earlier promised. Balance in the National Assembly cannot be guaranteed if the speaker and the chairman of that committee, the last stage of bill reviews, are from one party. 
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