Four political parties of Korea, with the exception of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP), submitted a request Tuesday to open an extraordinary session of the National Assembly for June as negotiations for the normalization of parliament had broken down. There will be no problem in opening the National Assembly without the participation of the LKP as the law states that the National Assembly can be convened if one-fourth of all lawmakers agree. But the remaining parties cannot schedule any plenary sessions without the consent of the main opposition party. An extraordinary session for June would not operate properly without the participation of the LKP.
Even if an extraordinary session of the National Assembly is convened, the seven standing committees, where LKP lawmakers serve as chairmen, will not be able to hold a meeting. The Special Committee on Budget and Accounts, which will handle the budget supplement bill the government and the ruling party are enthusiastic about, are one of the above seven. This is why an extraordinary session of the National Assembly is not likely to legislate a bill.
External conditions are tougher than ever with the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China and the U.S.-Iran tensions around the Strait of Hormuz. The 6.7 trillion won budget supplement bill has been pending at the South Korean National Assembly for two months since it was submitted on April 25. The ruling and opposition parties are busy fighting over the bill, hardly deliberating on the details. The grace period for the 52-hour workweek ended two months ago, but the National Assembly is yet to pass the revised Labor Standards Act that aims to extend the cap for a flexible working-hour system. There are plenty of bills that need to be dealt with immediately at the National Assembly. The ruling and opposition parties should first come to agreement and make tangible progress on pending issues.
In order for an extraordinary session of the National Assembly to operate properly, the ruling and opposition parties should strive to make a settlement. Both sides should refrain from being swayed by hardliners and should make a decision for a greater cause. A parliamentary hearing on economic issues the LKP has been demanding does not have to be formal. It can be dealt with by a relevant standing committee or through a joint meeting. It is not desirable to push ahead with convening an extraordinary session and to fast-track contentious bills. The ongoing political row over who is responsible for crippling the operation of the National Assembly must stop now.