Partisan struggles over the processing of fast-track bills led the plenary session to a halt on Friday. Along with it, hundreds of bills linked to people’s lives, including the revision to the road traffic act called “the Min-sik Bill” and the three data bills, could not be put to a vote. The Liberty Korea Party (LKP) filed to use a filibuster on 199 bills awaiting votes, while the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DP) and the Justice Party refused to attend the session for fear that fast-track bills could not be passed at the parliament.
In the face of scathing public criticism, both the ruling and opposition parties are blaming each other. The DP has accused the LKP of taking bills linked to people’s livelihoods hostage, but the Min-sik bill was not included in the list of bills filed by the main opposition party for a filibuster. The LKP said it would use a filibuster on all bills submitted for the plenary session until Thursday, while the Min-sik bill was submitted on Friday.
The ruling and opposition lawmakers did not seem to care about these bills aimed at improving people’s livelihoods in the first place. The LKP plans to use the stonewalling on non-contentious bills until the regular session comes to an end on next Tuesday. It will then try to block votes on fast-track bills through a filibuster if a provisional session is convened later. As a filibuster has no time limits, the conservative party will be able to achieve their goal with just a few of their lawmakers speaking for extended periods. Yet, if they truly cared about the urgency and desperateness of the bills related to people’s livelihoods, the LKP lawmakers would not have requested for a filibuster on as many as 199 bills.
The ruling DP, for its part, also deserves to be criticized for refusing to attend the plenary session, preventing votes even on non-contentious bills. Granted, this must have been the only tactics that the DP and the Justice Party could employ in response to the LKP playing hardball. Once the main opposition launches a filibuster, it would be unlikely for fast-track bills to be processed either at the regular session or before Dec. 17, a day for candidates to register for the general election next year.
There are certainly mixed voices over the fast-track bills on electoral reform and a corruption probe unit. However, what is more important is people’s livelihoods and safety. Therefore, the lawmakers should be able to find middle ground and hold a plenary session at least for urgent bills linked to people’s livelihoods. The mother of Min-sik, a boy who died after being hit by a car within a school zone, screamed in despair, saying why she should see her child’s death being used as a negotiating card. Children’s safety should never be the subject of political strife.