The final regular session of the National Assembly preceding next year’s April 10 general elections is witnessing heightened tensions due to intense political clashes between the ruling and opposition parties. Following the Democratic Party’s announcement yesterday of their intent to pass an impeachment bill targeting Chairman Lee Dong-kwan of the Korea Communications Commission, Chairman Lee tendered his resignation the previous night, and President Yoon Seok-yeol accepted it just before the scheduled plenary session. With Chairman Lee’s departure, the impeachment bill was automatically nullified. Capitalizing on the absence of the People Power Party, the Democratic Party successfully passed the impeachment bill for two prosecutors, including Son Jun-seong and Lee Jeong-seop. Concurrently, President Yoon exercised his veto on broadcasting laws and the yellow envelope law, which the Democratic Party had unilaterally passed. This marks the fourth instance of a veto being employed this year, following the Grain Act (April) and the Nurse Act (May).
The chairman of the Korea Communications Commission stepping down after just three months signifies a symbolic clash between the ruling and opposition parties. Under the guise of normalizing broadcasting, the Yoon administration initiated alterations to the governance structure of public broadcasting. The Democratic Party, contending that the government aimed to assert control over broadcasting before the general elections, sought to push for impeachment. Following Chairman Lee’s resignation, the Korea Communications Commission stands as a distorted entity, now comprising only one member out of the original five. Despite criticism that the Democratic Party’s controversial bill, passed with its majority of seats, “encourages strikes” (Yellow envelope law) or “expands the influence of pro-Democratic Party groups” (Broadcasting law), the ruling party did not engage in meaningful dialogue or show efforts towards compromise. Instead, they solely accused the opposition party of hindering government affairs. This lack of effort for collaborative solutions adds to the mounting tensions between the two political factions.
Amidst the ongoing discord between the National Assembly and the government, the budget bill for the next year, amounting to 638 trillion won, has surpassed the constitutional deadline by two days this year. Essential economic bills crucial for people’s livelihoods, including corporate restructuring and penalties for severe disasters, are accumulating without due attention. The Democratic Party’s plans to pass the so-called 5 billion club and two special prosecution laws linked to First Lady Kim Kun-hee in December indicate a potential exacerbation of political turmoil.
The 21st National Assembly appears to be forsaking the mandate to rectify politics and uphold accountability for the well-being of the people until the very end. Partisan legislation and impeachment moves by the opposition party have dominated the legislative agenda. The resignation of the ministerial chairman has neutralized the National Assembly’s actions, leaving one to wonder at what point the anguish for the nation and the people’s livelihood becomes palpable. Despite the immediate economic crisis, valuable time that could be dedicated to preparing for the future is being squandered. The ruling party bears the responsibility for overall governance, including fostering collaboration with the opposition. Rather than solely relying on its seat count determined three years ago, the opposition party should exercise restraint. Both sides must remain true to their original roles of addressing next year’s budget plan and the people’s well-being, prioritizing these over a debate solely focused on the advantages and disadvantages in the upcoming general elections. This approach is key to securing public support in the long run.