We continue our coverage of Defining Moments
2015 – now on to… the at times tumultuous… at times way too static… but always tense
political scene. Here to talk about Korean politics this past
year are our well-trusted political correspondents – Park Ji-won and Ji Myung-kil.
Hi, guys. Good evening, Conn-young.
Good evening, Conn-young. So, politics team – another EVENTFUL year
in Korean politics… well, I suppose towards the end of the year… and eventless today…
— which has been the problem. Indeed, Conn-young.
Before we jump into the details, I made a wrap up of the main political highlights of
2015. Let’s take a look. The year’s first major event came in January
when President Park Geun-hye appointed Lee Wan-koo as prime minister.
Despite being dogged by a series of allegations, Lee earned the National Assembly’s approval
in mid-February. But Lee was forced to step down just two months
into his post over a bribery scandal involving a dead businessman and other high-profile
figures. On April 29th, by-elections were held in four
constituencies nationwide. The ruling Saenuri Party performed well,…
winning three of the four seats up for grabs. The main opposition New Politics Alliance
for Democracy had a nightmare,… failing to win any seats at all.
The ruling party’s clear victory gave it and the conservative government a mandate to push
ahead with their reform agenda. It was this backdrop that provided a breakthrough
to long-stalled plans to reform the nation’s debt-ridden civil-servant pension plan.
Thanks to the bill,… the government will save some 300 billion U.S. dollars over the
next 70 years. In June, a bill allowing parliament to request
changes to government decrees passed the National Assembly.
The bill enraged the Presidential Office, and President Park immediately vetoed it.
The ensuing controversy ended with the Saenuri Party’s floor leader Yoo Seong-min resigning
the following month. Former justice minister and chief prosecutor
Hwang Kyo-ahn became the country’s next prime minister in mid-June… taking a spot that
had been filled on a temporary basis by finance minister Choi Kyung-hwan.
In September,.. the National Assembly’s 100-day regular session began.
Lawmakers had a full plate of tasks to get stuck into, including redrawing the nation’s
electoral map,… but the rival parties have yet to reach a compromise.
History textbooks were in the headlines in October.
There was a firestorm of controversy over the government’s announcement that it was
going to reintroduce a single, state-issued history textbook into secondary schools from
2017. The government argued the current system was
too left-leaning,… but critics, academics and the opposition party said it was an attempt
to distort Korea’s history. Korea mourned the death of former president
Kim Young-sam in November,… bidding farewell to the pro-democracy figure with a state funeral.
Arguably the biggest story in December was Ahn Cheol-soo’s defection from the main opposition
NPAD,… the party he helped to co-found. Now, Jiwon walked us through various political
events that happened this year. Myung-kil, can you tell us more… starting with the
resignation of former Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo? Right. Lee Wan-koo stepped down in April,
becoming the shortest-serving prime minister since the 1980s. He was in office for just
63-days. Lee was embroiled in a bribery scandal over
allegations he accepted 27-thousand U.S. dollars during a parliamentary by-election in 2013
from a businessman who hanged himself in April. The “bribery list” left behind by Sung Woan-jong
was a huge blow to the political realm… as it named lawmakers from rival parties and
several of President Park Geun-hye’s close allies. And in July… President Park Geun-hye’s relations
began to sour with her governing party… leading to the resignation of former floor
leader Yoo Seong-min… can you tell us more? Yes, it was the first time she declared war
on her own party lawmakers for their cynical political bargains. Saenuri Party former floor leader Yoo Seong-min
pushed the president to her limits when he passed a revision bill to the National Assembly
Act,… when he knew she was against it. The revision strengthened lawmakers authority
to demand a change in administrative legislation, such as presidential decrees.
In June she vetoed the bill and demanded Yoo step down,… calling him a “traitor who only
takes care of himself.” And Myung-kil, it appears relations are still
strained between the National Assembly and the top office… right? Yes. Since November, President Park’s patience
has been running-out as her key bills to help revive Korea’s economy are stuck in parliament. The bills are aimed at overhauling Korea’s
labor market and strengthening Korea’s service industries. The government says the legislation
will help create jobs for young people…but the opposition criticizes them as “fake livelihood
bills.” Other key bills are also in limbo, such as
those designed to improve North Korea’s human rights, counter terrorism and readjust Korea’s
electoral districts. And talking about parliamentary business…
its seems the main opposition bloc is falling apart…? That’s right. Already 10 lawmakers quit the
Minjoo Party of Korea since the high-profile departure of former co-leader Ahn Cheol-soo
this month. Current party chief Moon Jae-in refused to
accept Ahn’s proposal to hold a party convention to elect a new leader in preparation for April’s
general election. Therefore, Ahn quit the party to create his
own opposition force. And unfortunately, the Minjoo Party continues
to struggle with feuding factions. So Ji-won and Myung-kil before we let you
go… how’s life at the National Assembly? Well, the life as a journalist at the National
Assembly is pretty hectic. Because we need to closely watch and follow
daily morning meetings by both main parties,… and need to follow politicians’ sudden meetings
and announcements. So it’s pretty stressful.
But looking back the whole year at this point,… I realized that amid this chaos of political
standoffs and bickerings,… all the important decisions in the country are being made. And another thing that is so hectic about
being at the National Assembly is that there are so many committees and abrupt meetings.
Some times we have to wait for hours and hours for the results to come out… it’s really
painstaking to hear lawmakers shout at government officials and following-up on government officials
responses to the questionnaires. And by the end of the day when you sit down
to write your piece you’re bombarded with so much information.
This is how life is like at the National Assembly. Thank-you guys.