The Democratic Party of Korea has decided to boycott President Yun Suk-yeol’s speech on the Fiscal Year 2023 scheduled Tuesday to demonstrate its opposition to prosecutors’ office entry to its party headquarters. This was the second attempt by the law enforcement to carry out a seizure and search against the party’s research center as a part of its ongoing investigation of Lee Jae-myung for his alleged charge of receiving illegal funds for the presidential election. The DP voiced resistance against prosecutors’ undertaking, calling it an attempt to crush the opposition party. The ruling People Power Party responded that the DP is blackmailing the nation. It seems Korea’s political landscape is getting swiped by chaos.
Previously, the opposition party asked for an apology before the president’s speech, citing that the president had ignored the National Assembly and persecuted the opposition. The DP even warned against additional seizure investigation, claiming that an attempt to carry out such an investigation against the major opposition party during the parliamentary audit obstructs the national process. To this claim, President Yun responded that he had never heard of instances of imposing a condition on presidential speech in the history of the constitutional government of Korea. Around the same time, prosecutors undertook a second attempt for the seizure.
In Korea, when the administration submits the budget bill for the following year, the president explains the bill and requests cooperation for review and processing on the matter at the National Assembly, as the legislative body is entitled to set out the direction for the pertinent review based on the speech. Article 84 of the National Assembly Act states that “the speech of the Government on the administrative policy for the budget bill shall be heard at the plenary session.” This means hearing the speech is the national assembly’s basic responsibility. Thus, it is not a subject to be with careless talk of boycotting. It is also a reality that cooperation from the opposition party is necessary for the review process, as the National Assembly holds the right to review the bill.
It is pretty regretful to see the situation with prosecutors’ investigation has degraded into a disorder of this magnitude where the opposition party talks about boycotts before the new administration’s very first speech on the budget bill. Since former President Roh Tae-woo introduced the speech process, there have been milder protests in history, such as the opposition refusing to applaud, picketing, or with some members leaving the venue in the middle of the speech. However, a complete boycott has never happened.
Both parties must make efforts to prevent a complete dissolution of the government. Although it is an action following the court’s order with a warrant, the prosecution’s decision is questionable; Was it necessary to enter the DP’s headquarters and instigate the conflict on the last day of the parliamentary audit and a day before the presidential speech? The ruling party will ultimately be responsible for bringing chaos into the political situation and paralyzing the national assembly’s functions. The DP is not free of blame - it should realize that staging a boycott, while the specific method of the protest is undecided, will be hardly acceptable to the country’s people. Apart from the investigation of the DP leader, the National Assembly’s discussion on the budget bill and legislation to assist people’s livelihood must continue.