The Korea Herald


[Editorial] Unilateral politics

President, parties must stop engaging in vicious circle of impeachments and vetoes

By Korea Herald

Published : Dec. 4, 2023 - 05:30

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As the general election is set to be held in April, rival political parties, as well as President Yoon Suk Yeol, are ditching normal political strategies in favor of misguided and intensely confrontational tactics -- a sorry sight that raises voters' eyebrows.

On Friday, a whirlwind of significant political developments played out at a fast pace. The initial blow was delivered by Yoon, who accepted the resignation offer of Lee Dong-kwan, chief of the Korea Communications Commission.

For those who haven’t followed the political wrangling over Lee, Yoon’s acceptance of his resignation may appear strange. After all, with the election fast approaching, Lee -- Yoon’s appointee -- is supposed to be an important figure who could support the ruling People Power Party’s position, at least indirectly, in the country’s broadcasting sector.

Despite TV stations’ weakened position in recent years, their influence over voters cannot be ignored, so political parties have long sought to have their appointees lead the KCC to gain an upper hand in broadcasting policy and secure a better position in elections.

Yoon’s acceptance of Lee’s resignation was inevitable. The main opposition Democratic Party of Korea earlier introduced an impeachment motion against Lee, claiming that he had made unfair personnel choices allegedly intended to boost the government’s influence over TV stations.

As the Democratic Party has a clear majority in the 298-seat Assembly with 168 seats, it could pass the impeachment motion during a plenary session Friday.

If the impeachment motion were passed, Lee would find himself suspended from his duties for months -- possibly through the election. This scenario was feared to deal a severe blow to Yoon and the ruling party, as they could not appoint a new KCC head until Lee’s suspension of duties was cleared.

Lee said at a press conference after his resignation that he decided to step down because he could not predict how long the impeachment trial would drag on, leaving the KCC paralyzed.

Although Lee said he sacrificed himself to keep the KCC running, there are uncertainties about how the broadcasting watchdog will return to normal operation. As Lee resigned, the KCC’s five-member standing committee is set to be operated with a single person in charge: KCC Vice Chairman Lee Sang-in, who is also expected to oversee the broadcasting watchdog as an acting chief until a new appointee is confirmed.

Even though the Democratic Party’s impeachment attempt against Lee was unsuccessful, the party continued with its impeachment offensives, leading to the passage of motions against senior prosecutors Son Jun-sung and Lee Jung-seop over alleged political meddling and irregularities, respectively.

Son was accused of having conspired with a lawmaker to file complaints against key figures of the Democratic Party in a way that launched a prosecution probe ahead of the 2020 parliamentary elections.

Lee was accused of a host of irregularities, but some critics claim that he faces impeachment for handling a probe into Democratic Party leader Lee Jae-myung.

Right after the passage of the impeachment motions, they were suspended from duties. It is the Constitutional Court that will later decide whether to endorse or reject their impeachment.

The clash between the rival parties over Lee and the two prosecutors continued Friday as President Yoon vetoed a pro-labor bill and three other bills related to broadcasting laws unilaterally passed by the Democratic Party last month. The three bills regarding broadcasting laws were revisions designed to reduce the government’s influence over public TV stations.

The vicious circle of opposition-led impeachments and presidential vetoes intensifies wasteful confrontations and stalls key legislative proposals.

Both the Democratic Party, which unilaterally pushes for impeachment motions, and Yoon, who relies too often on equally unilateral vetoes, must stop their irresponsible acts that leave voters disappointed.