Go to contents

[Editorial] ‘Park Sang-chun Act’ Worth Trying

Posted April. 11, 2009 06:34,   


The main opposition Democratic Party will submit a revision bill to the National Assembly Act, which is designed to allow submission of contentious bills to standing committees or main assembly sessions before an adjustment process. The bill is significant considering the party’s past practice of blocking contentious bills from even being submitted. If the ruling and opposition parties hold adequate discussions, they can find common ground and avoid confrontation, including the ruling party’s railroading of bills and the physical struggle to deter the move by opposition parties.

The Democratic Party has made progress thanks in large part to Rep. Park Sang-chun. The bill can arguably be called the “Park Sang-chun bill.” Park said he deeply felt the need to normalize the political representation system, as he experienced violence at the National Assembly over the attempted passage of contentious bills at the end of last year. The five-term lawmaker studied cases in advanced countries at the National Assembly library and drafted the bill in person. He personally spoke to 82 Democratic Party lawmakers to persuade them. His passion and commitment changed his party’s platform in the end.

Korea’s political representation system is miserable at best. Constructive dialogue and compromise have all but disappeared, while the principle of majority rule is not honored. Whenever controversy erupts, it always proceeds in the same vicious cycle: opposition parties hold a do-or-die struggle to block controversial bills, violence erupts, lawsuits are exchanged and cases are referred to the parliamentary ethics committee, and then return to square one.

The Park Sang-chun bill is aimed at eradicating such regressive and counterproductive practices. Under the revision bill, minority parties must guarantee the submission of bills, while the ruling party has to allow an adjustment and coordination process, and "filibuster" before putting the bill to a vote if a fifth of all lawmakers demand. If two thirds of lawmakers approve such a bill, however, lawmakers are required to end the adjustment process and hold a vote. The bill effectively harmonizes the position of minority parties of stressing dialogue and compromise, and the ruling party`s stance of focusing on the principle of majority rule.

It is problematic, however, to set the minimum requirement for ending the adjustment process at two thirds of registered lawmakers. Park originally proposed a requirement of three fifths like in the United States. But the ratio was adjusted in the process of internal debate within the Democratic Party as the party was mindful of the majority status of the Grand National Party with 170 seats in the 299-member assembly. It is unreasonable, however, to set the requirement for ending filibuster under such tough conditions. Will the Democratic Party remain a minority party forever? The ratio must be adjusted in the process of parliamentary discussion to uphold the intent of the Park Sang-chun Act in a rational fashion.