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[Opinion] Parliamentary Legislation and Judiciary Committee

[Opinion] Parliamentary Legislation and Judiciary Committee

Posted November. 06, 2008 09:38,   


Since the National Assembly`s Legislation and Judiciary Committee consists mostly of former judges, prosecutors and lawyers, non-legal experts have been unable to raise their voices in the committee. The person who broke this unreasonable practice was Jo Hong-gyu of the now-defunct party National Congress for New Politics. Lacking a legal background but known for witty remarks, he was named to the committee. Ruling party lawmakers expressed their discontent, saying, “Why have you become a committee member when you have no legal background?” Jo responded, “Though I`ve never investigated suspects, I used to investigate rice.” His witty remark implies that the position of judge or prosecutor is no different than other jobs.

Today committee members belonging to the ruling Grand National Party are mostly former judges, prosecutors and lawyers. Among 16 members, all nine from the party are legal experts. The main opposition Democratic Party has four members (not including the committee chairman), of whom Park Jie-won and Park Yeong-seon are not legal experts. Neither are Jo Sun-hyeong of the minor conservative Liberty Forward Party and Roh Cheol-rae of the Pro-Park Alliance. Under the Constitution, the dispute between the ruling and opposition parties can grow into bickering between legal and non-legal experts. If legal and non-legal experts lock horns, the latter is more likely to win. As seen in with Jo Hong-gyu, non-legal experts can employ the weapons of common sense and public opinion against legal experts.

Recently, the ruling party seems bothered that the committee is chaired by Yu Seon-ho of the Democratic Party. A few months ago, the ruling party had no choice but to concede the chairmanship to the Democratic Party to open the 18th National Assembly. Both sides seem to be in a bind, however, since they are at odds over issues such as the revision of the comprehensive property tax, enactment and designating as a crime cyber contempt. Even after being passed by other standing committees, legislation cannot be presented to National Assembly’s plenary session without the Legislation and Judiciary Committee`s permission. Worse, when the Grand National Party was the opposition party, it used the committee`s chairmanship to block the then ruling party from passing bills.

Yu’s gavel will determine the performance of the parliamentary regular session, but he stresses the principle of conversation and compromise. He will neither allow the ruling party to stick to its own plans nor unconditionally support the Democratic Party. He is unlikely to make an unreasonable decision as committee chairman.

Editorial Writer Kim Chang-hyeok (chang@donga.com)