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Stop abusing National Assembly Advancement Act

Posted September. 25, 2013 07:40,   


The main opposition Democratic Party vowed to step up “struggle within the National Assembly,” while declaring return to parliament. Since the party has not completely ended outdoor struggle, it is hard to predict when it will take to the street again. It is also problematic for the party to use the expression‍ “struggle,” even when it is to participate in parliamentary activities. Floor leader Jun Byung-hun said, “We will make (President Park Geun-hye) vividly realize (how difficult it is for her to manage state administration) without the opposition party’s cooperation.” The party thus implies that although it is returning to the National Assembly due to public pressure, it will give hard time to President Park and the ruling Saenuri Party in addressing matters, be it deliberation of bills or review of state budget.

It is impossible for the Democratic Party to pass a bill single-handedly, but it does have the capacity to block any bills from passing the National Assembly. Eight of the 16 parliamentary standing committees comprise almost the same number of ruling and opposition party lawmakers, while four standing committees are chaired by Democratic Party lawmakers. The Legislation and Judiciary Committee, which any bill must clear before being submitted to the main parliamentary session, is also chaired by a Democratic Party lawmaker. Amid this situation, if the Democratic Party attempts to put the brakes on every single bill by using the revised National Assembly Act (also known as the National Assembly Advancement Act) as its shield, the Park administration and the Saenuri Party will hardly be able to pass any single bill, however hard they try. If the main opposition party engages in hardline struggle, the National Assembly will see its functions effectively stalled.

In the past, the National Assembly speaker had capacity to overcome such an impasse by exercising his or her right to submit bills at own discretion. But the National Assembly Advancement Act strictly limits the situations wherein the speaker is allowed to exercise the right only to natural disaster, war and uprising, and national emergencies. The main assembly session can only deliberate bills, which the ruling and opposition parties agree upon or those that are approved by at least three fifths of the members of a standing committee. Such an act was legislated to prevent ill-advised practice wherein the majority party railroads a bill by banking on its majority seats, and a minority party uses physical standoff or violence to curb such bids. The original purpose of the act was for the National Assembly to deliberate bills through dialogue and compromise between majority and minority parties, and between ruling and opposition parties.

Some critics believe that the act is in violation of the Constitution, which provides that the National Assembly be run in line with the majority principle, except in special cases. To some extent, the act also is incompatible with representation through election, which elects the majority party through public vote. Critics also say that the act has institutionalized a system that enables a minority party, not the majority party, to sway the National Assembly. Despite such problems, if the ruling and opposition parties enacted the act through consensus, they are advised to implement the act in compliance with the purpose.

Even if an act was legislated to correct outdated practice at the National Assembly, such an act will not survive for long if it is exploited by one party to check the other from taking proper legislative process. If the Democratic Party wishes to have the act remain in effect for long, it should overcome the temptation to use it as part of its political plots.