Former opposition leader elected new Assembly speaker [2016/06/22 16:08]

The National Assembly elected the main opposition party`s Rep. Chung Sye-kyun as its new speaker on Thursday, catapulting the sixth-term moderate lawmaker to the top parliamentary job in hopes of bridging partisan gaps in the opposition-controlled parliament.

Of the 287 attending lawmakers out of the 300-member Assembly, 274 voted in approval of the motion to endorse Chung as the top lawmaker. Rep. Shim Jae-chul of the ruling Saenuri Party and Rep. Park Joo-sun of the third-biggest People`s Party were elected as vice speakers.

The result came a day after the three major parties agreed to give the speakership to The Minjoo Party of Korea that holds the biggest number of parliamentary seats at 123. With Chung taking the speakership position, which automatically suspends his partisan membership, both the Saenuri Party and the Minjoo Party will have 122 seats each. Chung became the party`s nominee after beating his fellow sixth-term lawmaker Rep. Moon Hee-sang in an internal election.

“The 20th National Assembly should be different from the previous assemblies,” said Chung during an acceptance speech. “I am going to make the Assembly (one) that deserves its name, serves in the interest of the people and upholds constitutional value,” he said.

With the former opposition party leader being elected as speaker, the liberal party has assumed the top legislative post for the first time in 14 years. The new speaker will serve for two years until 2018, the first half of the four-year Assembly term.

Chung`s pledge to play a “proactive” role is widely expected to grant more legislative leverage to the opposition parties, with the speaker`s right to call plenary sessions to vote on budget bills and put forth motions to endorse the president`s appointment of key cabinet members.

In casting himself as a leader who can also take hard-line approach, the 65-year-old politician, nicknamed “Mr. Smile,” vowed to speak his mind during his tenure. Chung is known as a skilled negotiator and for his gentleman-like attitude.

“Although many fellow lawmakers see me as nonconfrontational, the 20th Assembly will demand more than a moderation. It will sometimes require vigor. Through smooth yet firm operation of the Assembly, I will be dedicated to breaking through the crisis of democracy and the economy,” Chung said.

One of the imminent challenges Chung faces is the legislative confrontation over bills that failed to clear the previous Assembly and have been handed over to the new lawmakers.

With no parties holding parliamentary majority, the lawmakers are expected to clash over government-led bills aimed to ease business regulation and grant the intelligence agency more authority to conduct counterterrorism efforts. They have been or are in the process of being resubmitted.

The Minjoo Party, for its part, is pushing to revise a law aimed to offer compensation to the victims of the Sewol ferry sinking and toxic humidifier disinfectants. The Saenuri Party has rebuked the move as “politicization” of the incident.

Chung beat former Seoul city mayor Oh Se-hoon in the latest general election. In 2010, he served as the leader of then-opposition Democratic Party, a forerunner to the Minjoo Party, and brought the party to a victory in the 2010 by-election.

Chung ran for nomination in the 2012 presidential election, but was defeated by Moon Jae-in who became the party`s eventual presidential nominee. Since his term ends in 2018, Chung will not run in the 2017 presidential race.
출처: 헤럴드미디어 영자신문 코리아헤럴드 (