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No End in Sight for Disrupted National Assembly

Posted November. 02, 2004 23:03,   


On November 2, the fourth day of a disrupted National Assembly, the ruling and opposition parties worked hard behind the scenes to normalize the assembly. The Uri Party began to consider the expression of regret by Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan in exchange for the Grand National Party’s return to the National Assembly sessions. However, the GNP still showed a hard line posture by sending a group of lawmakers to President Roh Moo-hyun to demand him to remove Prime Minister Lee from his post. The ulterior motives of the two parties are more complex than they appear. It will take them some time to figure out a negotiation tactic to bring the National Assembly back to normal.

The Uri Party, in which there are fears about rising public criticism over the disrupted legislature, is still dominated by hardliners who believe they should not cave in to irrational demands of the GNP.

After a floor leadership meeting presided by the Uri Party’s floor leader Chun Jeong-bae, Chun Byung-hyeon, an assistant floor leader, said, “Nothing has been decided. It appears that the disruptions will last for a long time.”

“I don’t know what implications will occur with Prime Minister Lee’s expression of regret or apologies when the GNP calls for his sacking,” said Rep. Chun, clarifying that the prime minister will not apologize first.

Nevertheless, the Uri Party continued its behind-the-scenes contact with the GNP. Its assistant floor leader, Rep. Lee Jong-geol, commented, “If the GNP returns to the National Assembly sessions, Prime Minister Lee will express an appropriate level of regret.”

The Uri Party leadership agreed to the rationality of a joint proposal by three opposition parties—the Korea Democratic Labor Party, the Millennium Democratic Party, and the Liberal Democrats United—that the assembly should be normalized after public apologies made by the Uri Party and the GNP. It is the leadership’s understanding that to end the entangled political standoff, both parties should simultaneously extend reconciliatory hands.

It is the Uri Party’s position that if the GNP apologizes for its red-baiting, it will persuade the prime minister to make an appropriate public apology.

“Some lawmakers proposed for Prime Minister Lee to express his regret as his opposition to the GNP’s red-baiting has been well-presented,” said Rep. Park Young-seon, speaking for the Uri Party. “And the prime minister said he would think it over.”

All in all, the Uri Party considers that the GNP returning to work is the precondition to the normalization of operations at the National Assembly.

“The prime minister’s apologies won’t do it. The National Assembly should be halted for the time being.”

The GNP countered the proposal centering on the prime minister’s expression of regret at a general meeting of lawmakers on November 2.

On the afternoon of November 2, the GNP sent a delegation of lawmakers led by assistant floor leader Nam Kyung-pil to the Presidential Office and sent a letter demanding the removal of the prime minister to Moon Jae-in, the presidential aide for civil society.

Earlier, GNP floor leader Kim Deog-ryong said, “The ruling party talks up the prime minister’s apologies. However, we cannot talk about governance with a prime minister who has become disqualified for his job for violations of the Constitution and the electoral code.” He reiterated a call for his sacking.

GNP lawmakers will publicize the case for Prime Minister Lee’s removal in their electorate districts on November 3. On that night, Rep. Shim Jae-cheol, the party’s political strategist, will have an online chat with Internet users about the disrupted National Assembly sessions and the ruling party’s role in it. On November 4, they will hold a rally to urge the prime minister’s sacking at the Assemblymen’s Hall

At the November 2 general meeting, some lawmakers said they should return to sessions to preempt the ruling party’s attempts at placing all the public blame on the GNP. However, their pleas were overpowered by get-tough proposals.

When Rep. Won Hee-ryong proposed a prompt return to the assembly, Rep. Kim Yong-kap told him to leave the GNP.

The GNP leadership will decide whether it will start negotiations with the Uri Party after finding out what President Roh, who is scheduled for appearing at a radio show called “The Women’s Age,” should say while he is on the air.

Hoon Lee Seung-Heon Lee dreamland@donga.com ddr@donga.com