Outgoing speaker says national divisions need healing
"Our politics right now is too accustomed to division, hatred and hostile accusations," said Park in a farewell press conference at the National Assembly. "Let's look level-headedly at whether we're not only listening to one side. We must listen to the voice of the silent majority, the rational majority."
Looking back on his past two years as parliamentary speaker, Park noted he had prioritized "dialogue, compromise and people's livelihoods."
But he continued, "Even with these efforts and principles, we did not reach the level of the people's expectations."
Park noted a particular regret over the handling of the prosecution reform bills, which he said was an example of parliamentary compromise that ultimately fell short.
In late April, Park brokered a compromise on a controversial bills that would eventually strip the prosecution of its investigative powers, initially agreed to by the ruling Democratic Party (DP) and People's Power Party (PPP) floor leaders. However, the PPP later walked away from the compromise. At the beginning of this month, the DP finally railroaded the bills — which revise the Prosecutors' Office Act and the Criminal Procedure Act — through the National Assembly despite a boycott by PPP lawmakers.
"It was a deal that the political sphere agreed to, one that both the new and old governments supported," said Park. "It is most regrettable that it was rejected in one moment."
Park also called for a need for a constitutional amendment and the need to reform the electoral system to encourage a "multi-party system."
"The deeply-rooted conflicts and confrontations in our politics lie in the imperial presidential system and an electoral system in which the victor gets everything if you gain just one more vote," said Park.
However, Park also criticized the DP for its response to its defeat in the March 9 presidential, in which the PPP's candidate Yoon Suk-yeol defeated the DP's Lee Jae-myung by a razor-thin margin of 0.73 percentage points.
"Even if [the DP] lost by 0.7 percentage points in the presidential election, a defeat is a defeat," he said. "I think the DP needs serious introspection on why it was defeated when the approval rating of former President Moon Jae-in exceeded 40 percent."
He added, "I believe the DP can find a rational solution after serious discussions following the June 1 local elections."
Park also said that is "desirable for all members of society, including politicians, to have an appropriate union between old and young."
His remarks came after Park Ji-hyun, the DP interim co-chair, called for older politicians to retire to pave the way for the younger generation earlier this week.
Park said his achievements as speaker include his parliamentary diplomacy with the leaders of 23 nations and his parliamentary counterparts in 67 countries.
In May 2020, Park, a six-term lawmaker for the Democratic Party (DP), became speaker of the 21st National Assembly and surrendered his party membership, according to the National Assembly Act, which requires the speaker to be independent.
A former journalist for the JoongAng Ilbo, Park started his political career in 1999 by joining the political party of President Kim Dae-jung as a spokesman. He served as deputy Seoul mayor during the tenure of Goh Kun in 1999. He won his first legislative victory in 2000 and was re-elected six times from Daejeon. In 2012, he served as a deputy speaker of the National Assembly for two years.
A native of Daejeon, Park received a bachelor of laws degree from Sungkyunkwan University and a doctorate in mass communications from Hanyang University.
On Tuesday, the DP picked Rep. Kim Jin-pyo, a five-term lawmaker, as parliamentary speaker. The liberal DP holds a majority with 167 seats in the 300-seat National Assembly.
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]