Four Problems in Korean Politics Revealed in the ‘Inspection and Completeness’ phase

[김수민의 直說] Prosecutor’s Office enforced the enforcement of the law despite 55% of public opinion wishing to maintain the investigation authority

National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-seok (center) met with Minjoo Party floor leader Park Hong-geun (right) and People’s Power floor leader Kwon Seong-dong at the National Assembly in Yeouido, Seoul on April 27. [뉴스1]

On April 22, the Democratic Party (Democratic Party) and the People’s Power accepted the mediation of National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-seok and agreed to a bill called ‘Completely depriving the prosecution of investigation rights’. The content is that the scope of the prosecution’s direct investigation will be limited to corruption and economic crimes, and even that will be turned over when the so-called Serious Crimes Investigation Agency is created. In the end, it will only slow you down. The People’s Power broke the agreement in the aftermath of public opinion and started to ‘re-discuss’, but the long-standing problems of Korean politics were clearly exposed only through the process that had already taken place.

The Democratic Party, People’s Power, and Justice Party all contribute

First, it is ‘protection of vested interests’. It has been revealed that the Democratic Party and the power of the people are afraid of the prosecution’s investigation. It is not only public officials and election crimes in the prosecution that vested political forces are reluctant. The recent investigation conducted by the South Korean prosecutors’ office at an ‘extraordinary level’ was a large-scale special investigation targeting chaebols, including Samsung. No matter how pro-chaebol and pro-capitalist politicians are, if a violation is discovered and the investigation is proceeding, there is no right way to stop it. There is no pro-chaebol and pro-capital policy as much as neutralizing the prosecution’s investigation.

Second, the large bipartisan parties do not accurately represent their supporters. Let’s look at the results of a poll conducted by Gallup Korea, an opinion polling agency, on 1,000 adults across the country for three days from April 19, just before an agreement on the arbitration plan was reached. Regarding the investigation authority of the prosecution, 55% said ‘keep it as it is’ and 35% said ‘transfer to the police’ (the sampling error is ±3.1%p at the 95% confidence level. For more information on the public opinion poll, see the website of the National Election Opinion Survey Deliberation Committee. reference).

Even among the shaman, 53% of the members of the non-partisan group said ‘maintaining the prosecution’s investigative powers’ significantly exceeded the ‘transfer to the police’ (32%), and even among the Democratic Party supporters, 1 in 4 opposed the completion of the inspection. If you broaden the scope to voters who supported Lee Jae-myung in the last presidential election, the opposition to the scrutiny will be higher. The Democratic Party insists that it has been preparing for ‘prosecution reform’ for a long time, but how do you explain the high opposition opinion due to the departure of some of the supporters? If it is a democratic public party, it should give priority to policies favored by the majority of its supporters, such as protection of the rights of the common people and political reform.

Meanwhile, the People’s Power reached an agreement on the issues opposed by the overwhelming majority of supporters. It is not a compromise at the level of maintaining the prosecution’s corruption and economic investigations to the end or giving the investigation command necessary for a thorough investigation and smooth prosecution instead of abolishing the prosecution’s direct investigation authority. It only delayed it, but the people’s power actually contributed to overcoming the scrutiny more than the Democratic Party. The Justice Party also joined in. Since he started acting as a mediator right away, he can no longer fight the collusion of the two huge parties. As a result of this synthesis, the policy in which the opposition opinion clearly prevailed was enforced.

Third, the phenomenon in which the general assembly of the National Assembly dominates the political party is also a chronic problem in Korean politics. Of the 9 emergency response members, the Democratic Party’s supreme leadership, 6 non-commissioned members (Park Ji-hyun, Kwon Ji-woong, Kim Tae-jin, Lee So-young, Cho Eung-cheon, and Chae Yi-bae), including joint emergency response committee chairman Park Ji-hyeon, expressed their disagreement over the speed of the inspection. 4 out of 6 are outside staff. In the People’s Power, the agreement approved by the general assembly was overturned by the Supreme Council, led by CEO Jun-seok Lee, an outside person. It is the same that the Democratic Party, the power of the people, or the leadership failed to lead the direction of the general assembly.

A political party is not a parliamentary association. It is not that a member of the National Assembly is necessarily more representative than an outside member. People who have never had the opportunity to run for election or have recently started politics like Chairman Park, who have been defeated but are now gaining superlative popularity like Chairman Lee, have been elected through tough runs in the Korean electoral system in which only one person is elected per constituency. Even this tough politician can get into party leadership. Their presence can represent the areas that lawmakers have missed. However, the two major parties reduced their party representatives to ‘second-class members’ because they did not have the right to vote at the general assembly.

Moon Jae-in and Yoon Seok-yeol take a step back

Fourth, separation of the president (elected) and political parties and members. President Moon Jae-in and President-elect Yoon Seok-yeol did not intervene while approving the Sudanese mediation plan. The appearance of Han Dong-hoon, the candidacy for Justice Minister, is reminiscent of former Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae in the Moon Jae-in administration. Those who advocate this talk about ‘separation of powers’, but it is ‘interaction’ that supports the separation of powers. Even a minority within the ruling class can exercise the right to veto bills like a direct representative of the people. In addition, President Moon and President-elect Yoon are the undisputed top leaders of their political parties. Excusing the ‘parliamentary debate’ is an evasion of responsibility and a ‘self-immolation’ of crossing both legs. In fact, in some serious cases, their behavior was ‘buffet style’. The relocation of the Oval Office, which was clearly a new policy project, requiring the deliberation and resolution of the National Assembly, ended with the two leaders colluding the execution of the reserve funds. What about the electoral system? President Moon repeatedly emphasized that “reform the electoral system is his belief,” and while President-elect Yoon also stated that he “prefers a major constituency system” in the presidential debate, he fell behind while the plan to eliminate the two-member constituency in the election for the Basic Assembly was in vain. Finally, I point out one more ridiculous aspect of Korean politics. President-elect Yoon’s side made a ‘backbook proposal’ to put the issue of inspection and completion to a referendum. Whether this is an appropriate method is left to the discussion. A referendum is technically impossible. This is because the National Assembly did not amend the Referendum Act despite the Constitutional Court’s decision to guarantee the right to vote for overseas citizens. The National Assembly, which ignores the decisions of the Constitutional Court, is enforcing legislation equivalent to constitutional amendment.

Kim Soo-min, current affairs critic

Weekly Donga Published in No. 1337>

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