The ruling Minjoo Party of Korea took a unilateral action on a revised bill to the Act on Press Arbitration and Remedies, etc. to apply punitive damage compensation to media outlets in a plenary meeting of the National Assembly’s Culture, Sports and Tourism Committee. The party plans to make its way through the Legislation and Judiciary Committee next Tuesday and the plenary session of the legislative body next Wednesday. With the March 9 presidential election 200 days away, the ruling party is making another uncontrollable legislative rush.
Bringing an agenda coordination subcommittee under the culture, sports and tourism committee into complete control in coalition with the Open Democratic Party on Wednesday, the ruling party convened a plenary meeting at 11 a.m. next day. A crowd of 40-plus political leaders including People Power Party Chairman Lee Jun-seok chanted in front of the committee’s meeting room to condemn the ruling party for committing “press suppression” but to no avail.
The main opposition People Power Party argued that the culture, sports and tourism committee’s agenda coordination subcommittee followed an invalid process, citing that Open Democratic Party Rep. Kim Eui-gyeom joined as a coordination committee member that represents the opposition. However, Do Jong-hwan, the chair of the culture, sports and tourism committee as well as a Minjoo Party lawmaker, pushed forward with a vote on the revision bill. Asked by Chairman Do to stand up if members agree to it, a total of nine members consisting of eight from the ruling party and one from the Open Democratic Party express agreement, allowing the amendment to pass the committee within more than two hours of the plenary meeting. Although PPP lawmakers harshly criticized the ruling party for acting like a communist party, the ruling party intends to get the legislation of the press arbitration act done before it transfers the position of the committee’s chair to the PPP next Wednesday.
In response to the ruling party’s rush in the National Assembly, PPP lamwkers lamented that it is the bare face of a dictator’s DNA. Rep. Kim Gi-hyeon, the PPP floor leader, said that South Korean presidential office Cheong Wa Dae and the Minjoo Party have turned out to be fuddy-duddy extreme conservatives, promising to bring free democracy back and drive the ruling forces stained with dictatorship out of the country. PPP Rep. Jung Mi-kyung pointed out, “Those who chanted for democracy are gone. They have forgot what democracy looks like. Just as a fish-shaped bun actually has no fish in it, there is no democracy in the minds of these supporters of democracy.” As the opposition is outnumbered by the ruling party, it has no way of resisting the ruling party’s rush toward legislation. The PPP considers applying for a filibuster in the upcoming plenary meeting of the National Assembly next Wednesday.
Even the Justice Party, which stands on the left side of the political spectrum, showed strong resistance to another bout of legislative unilateralism following last year’s three main real estate acts and the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials. Justice Party’s floor leader Bae Jin-gyo criticized on Thursday, “If it is the case for some time, the provisional session of the National Assembly this month is likely to give up on all its four main responsibilities of stabilizing house prices, responding to climate change, revamping the press and even working as a legislative body in nature.” He pointed an accusatory finger at the ruling party for pretending to remove all kinds of deeply rooted wrongdoings but ending up being subject to that removal mission.
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