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Parties far apart on choosing new chairs for National Assembly committees

Rep. Kweon Seong-dong (left), floor leader of the ruling People Power Party, and his counterpart Rep. Park Hong-keun of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea walk out of the office of the National Assembly speaker on Thursday after a meeting. (Joint Press Corps)
Rep. Kweon Seong-dong (left), floor leader of the ruling People Power Party, and his counterpart Rep. Park Hong-keun of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea walk out of the office of the National Assembly speaker on Thursday after a meeting. (Joint Press Corps)
South Korea’s rival parties remain deadlocked over which party will hold chair positions for which legislative committees in the latter half of the 21st National Assembly, with the legislative branch effectively stalled since late May.

The ruling People Power Party and main opposition Democratic Party of Korea drew a preliminary compromise on July 4 to elect Rep. Kim Jin-pyo as the new National Assembly speaker, but they only agreed to hold talks in naming chairs for the committees.

Additional trouble in negotiations was expected from early on, as the progress seen thus far in naming chairs and deciding which party will hold the majority and where have been anything but smooth.

The core of the conflict for the time being is on which party should take control of the Public Administration and Security Committee as well as the Science, ICT, Broadcasting and Communications Committee.

The Democratic Party asked to chair these two committees to assure freedom of the press and independence of state agencies, but the People Power Party rejected the notion, arguing the system already favors the Democratic Party and the new ruling bloc must assume control to achieve balance.

The main opposition party also asked the ruling party to take part in a special committee on executing prosecution reform, but the ruling party said it would only agree to take part if allowed to chair the committee and have it under the party’s control.

Floor leaders of the two parties began holding negotiations last month, but they have yielded little progress.

The Democratic Party agreed to let the People Power Party take control of the Legislation and Judiciary Committee, but that was the only notably fruitful outcome of the ongoing negotiations.

Chances remain for the negotiations to remain stalled for much longer, as past records show the legislative branch had failed to elect new committee chairs for months.

For the latter half of the 14th National Assembly, the then-rival parties took 125 days to elect a new National Assembly speaker and the committee chairs to put the legislative branch back to work. The parties spent 57 days to name new committee chairs for the latter half of the previous 20th National Assembly.

By Ko Jun-tae (ko.juntae@heraldcorp.com)
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