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[Op-Ed] Lawmakers’ Resignations

Posted November. 30, 2009 08:45,   


In 1979, 66 lawmakers of the opposition New Democratic Party resigned to protest the expulsion of their leader Kim Young-sam from the National Assembly, only to be rejected. In 1990, 79 opposition lawmakers also tendered their resignations to protest the merger of the ruling party with two opposition parties. Under authoritarian rule, the resignations were used by opposition politicians to express their will to keep up their fight. The one time when lawmakers did give up their parliamentary seats occurred in 1965, however, when Korea and Japan held talks on normalization of diplomatic relations.

In 1998, lawmakers of the then opposition Grand National Party decided to resign en masse to protest President Kim Dae-jung’s attempt to overhaul domestic politics. In 2004, members of the then ruling Uri Party announced their resignation en masse after the impeachment motion for President Roh Moo-hyun was passed by the Grand National Party and the Millennium Democratic Party, which had a parliamentary majority. They retracted their announcement 10 days later and offered a public apology because of fears over the party’s strategy ahead of the general elections.

Last week, all 17 lawmakers of the minor conservative Liberty Forward Party threatened to resign in protest of President Lee Myung-bak’s disputed plan to revise the blueprint for the new administrative city in South Chungcheong Province. Their letters of resignation were submitted to their party leader instead of the National Assembly speaker, so whether they really mean to leave parliament is unclear. Under parliamentary law, a lawmaker’s resignation requires approval from a main parliamentary session or from the speaker when there is no session. Certain lawmakers of the main opposition Democratic Party announced their resignation in July this year in protest of media reform laws, but came under criticism for putting on a political show because their resignations were sent to their party leader, not to the speaker.

Several leading members of the Democratic Party submitted their resignation letters to the speaker, but remain lawmakers because the speaker rejected their requests to step down. Some suggest that the National Assembly should quickly accept such resignations and give voters a chance to elect new representatives to minimize a parliamentary vacuum. In 2005, Grand National Party lawmaker Park Se-il gave up his parliamentary seat after a law on building Sejong City was passed by the Assembly. He said he was taking responsibility for failing to prevent something that will become a “national disaster.”

Editorial Writer Park Seong-won (swpark@donga.com)