Antagonism between ruling, opposition camps spirals with probes aimed at Moon Jae-in, Lee Jae-myung

Posted on : 2022-10-24 15:04 KST Modified on : 2022-10-24 15:04 KST
Democratic Party lawmakers have said they will not hear the president’s budget address to the National Assembly without an apology and actions to restore confidence
The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office building in Seoul’s Seocho District on Oct. 23 (Yonhap)
The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office building in Seoul’s Seocho District on Oct. 23 (Yonhap)

Five months into Yoon Suk-yeol’s term as president, clashes between the ruling party and the opposition are escalating, with prosecutors’ investigations into the circumstances behind presidential campaign funds of Democratic Party leader Lee Jae-myung and the 2020 shooting death of a fisheries official in the waters off Korea’s western coast by North Korea inflaming already high tensions.

The Democratic Party has stated that they will boycott the president’s budget address at the National Assembly on Monday if he does not apologize for what they characterize as undermining the legislature and oppressing the opposition party.

The presidential office and the ruling party, in turn, argued that it is the duty of all members of the National Assembly to attend and listen to the speech.

The conflict between the ruling and opposition camps will mostly intensify with the start of the National Assembly's budget and bill review on Monday.

Meeting with the press on Sunday, Park Hong-keun, floor leader for the Democratic Party, commented, “We cannot remain silent while the president, who actively undermines the National Assembly and continuously oppresses the opposing party, visits the legislative branch to give a budget address.”

Park went on to criticize the president’s reported usage of profanity and statement that he “cannot cooperate with pro-North Korea politicians,” saying, “We will never allow a budget speech unless he does something to restore confidence.”

The presidential office and the ruling party have dismissed the opposition’s claims. The presidential office stated, “We hope the National Assembly will act prudently.”

It added, “Article 84 of the National Assembly Act stipulates that the president’s budget speech be heard at the plenary session.”

People Power Party (PPP) floor leader Joo Ho-young stated, “The president’s budget address is not something that one can simply choose not to hear. It is something that directly relates to the National Assembly’s responsibilities.”

The ruling and opposition parties held press conferences and made various announcements on Sunday, creating a suspenseful tit for tat reminiscent of the final stretch of the presidential election campaign.

The Democratic Party’s secretary general, Cho Jung-sik, and Park each held press meetings Sunday at 11:30 am and 1:30 pm, respectively, where they asked for a special prosecutor to be appointed to investigate the Daejang neighborhood development case and for the president to apologize for his previous statements.

In response to those press meetings, Joo of the PPP led an unscheduled press meeting at 2 pm to dismiss the opposition’s claims.

The National Assembly will begin reviewing budgets and bills starting Tuesday, but agreements on controversial bills such as the administration’s plan for amending the Government Organization Act, which would abolish the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, or the “yellow envelope law,” which restricts employers from filing excessive damage claims against their laborers, appear all but impossible.

With the National Assembly defaulting on its role as moderator, the conflict spread beyond the walls of parliament. Over the weekend, rallies calling for an independent special prosecutor to investigate President Yoon Suk-yeol and first lady Kim Keon-hee, and those calling for the arrest of Lee Jae-myung, were held in the area surrounding Gwanghwamun, Seoul.

“Since the National Assembly is failing to do its job as a mediator and is failing to solve anything, citizens are rallying in order to show that they need to step up and solve things for themselves,” remarked Park Sang-byeong, a political commentator.

By Seo Young-ji, staff reporter; Um Ji-won, staff reporter

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