The Democratic Party of Korea convened a general meeting of its members last Tuesday, during which a unanimous decision was reached to endorse a plan to preserve the existing 'semi-linked proportional representation system.' Additionally, the party resolved to establish a satellite party in preparation for the upcoming 22nd general election. The consensus on these matters followed the endorsement of party leader Lee Jae-myung's proposal on the preceding day. The semi-linked proportional representation system was initially implemented in the last general election to foster a multi-party system. The strategy involved relinquishing proportional representation seats to minority parties. However, the efficacy of this approach was compromised as both major political parties strategically launched 'trick satellite parties for proportional representation' just before the election, undermining the semi-linked system's intended purpose.
Lee addressed the General Assembly with remarks on the current political landscape, stating, "The ruling party has publicly declared its intention to establish a satellite party. From the Democratic Party's standpoint, in the face of such underhanded tactics by the opposition, we must respond," Lee argued. “Failure to do so could lead to a distortion of the public's vote.” He emphasized that the People Power Party had no alternative but to create a satellite party in response to the prevailing circumstances.
After these comments, Lee's statements took a more perplexing turn. "I urge the lawmakers gathered here to engage in robust debates,” he said. “However, as members of the party, it is crucial that if the party reaches a decision, lawmakers should be prepared to adhere to it, despite any perceived shortcomings." This implies that lawmakers should conform to the party's decision even if they harbor reservations or disagreements. In colloquial terms, it can be likened to a directive of "Quiet down and comply."
On the same day, lawmakers Lee Tan-hee, Kim Sang-hee, and Kim Du-gwan were also present at the general meeting. Approximately 30 individuals, including Rep. Lee Tan-hee, convened a press conference on Nov. 15 last year. During this event, they vociferously advocated for implementing the 'Satellite Political Party Prevention Act.' They contended that the People Power Party's explanations amounted to mere evasions and asserted that the Democratic Party should take a distinctive stance. During the press conference, Rep. Lee emphasized the urgency of the situation, citing political scientist Matthew Shugart's characterization of satellite parties as 'puppet parties.' "It is indeed a puppet party," he said. “We should need to prevent the formation of such puppet parties through the enactment of the satellite party prevention law.”
On Nov. 28, a group of 75 Democratic Party members introduced a proposal to amend the Public Official Election Act, advocating for a categorical ban on satellite political parties. Rep. Kim Sang-hee, former vice-chairman of the National Assembly, put forward the amendment bill. Rep. Kim argued that the initial expectations for the quasi-linked proportional system to enhance the representation of minority parties were hindered significantly by the emergence of so-called 'satellite parties.' He stressed the imperative need for urgent amendments to address these issues and restore the intended purpose of the electoral system.
Despite being well-versed in the issues and adverse effects associated with satellite political parties, lawmakers unanimously endorsed the establishment of a satellite political party in a remarkably short span of three months. "In contrast to last November, it's now undeniably the peak of the general election nomination season," a Democratic Party official remarked. "It's unlikely that anyone would go against the will of the party leader who holds the nomination rights." "There were widespread expectations that party leader Lee would prolong the decision on the election system to forestall internal divisions and defections within the party,” an opposition party official said. “The anticipation was for Lee to leverage as much time as possible until the nomination season unfolded."
As constitutional bodies entrusted with the representation of the people, each member of the National Assembly is responsible for advocating for what is right and just. Ideally, at the recent general meeting on the election system, every lawmaker should have expressed a commitment to uphold ethical standards and refrain from engaging in inappropriate or detrimental actions to the democratic process. They would have left a historical record reflecting their dedication to fairness and transparency by making such declarations. This stance would serve as a reminder in the annals of history, ensuring that the negative consequences of satellite parties are duly documented for future reference during the examination of general election processes. Such a principled stand could contribute to the ongoing efforts to refine and improve electoral systems in the years to come.
In response to the Democratic Party's unanimous decision, People Power Party Emergency Response Committee Chairman Han Dong-hoon retorted sarcastically, stating, "Is it North Korea? If it was going to be a unanimous decision, I don't know why we've been fighting so hard until now." His remarks seem to mock the perceived lack of genuine debate or opposition within the Democratic Party. Han Dong-hoon's comment may resonate as a pointed critique, particularly for Democratic Party members who adhered to what he characterizes as the "Shut up and obey when told to obey" guideline associated with Lee Jae-myung's leadership style. It prompts the question of where those Democratic Party members who previously asserted that satellite parties should never be established have positioned themselves amidst the unfolding developments.