Seoul rocked by revolt over ruling party’s apparent power grab

by WorldTribune Staff, December 17, 2019

South Korea’s National Assembly on Monday canceled a vote on fast-tracked legislation being pushed by leftist President Moon Jae-In after a massive protest by opposition lawmakers and their supporters in the streets outside the parliament.

“I will not open a plenary session today because it won’t be possible to smoothly operate a session,” National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-Sang said in a statement.

Protesters at the National Assembly building in Seoul on Dec. 16. / Yonhap

The Liberty Korea Party (LKP) protested the ruling Democratic Party (DP) and its legislative allies for attempting to push through bills which would revise the electoral system and weaken the powers of prosecutors in a process that excluded opposition parties.

Thousands of protesters, many waving Korean and American flags, flooded the area in front of the National Assembly to protest what they said was a power grab by President Moon and his Democratic Party.

Korea analyst Lawrence Peck, who witnessed the protest, posted his reaction online, writing: “As I Watched Live Protests In Front Of National Assembly, Police Announced They Would Arrest Not Only Protesters, But Also Arrest Media Covering The Protest! I Heard It With My Own Ears! Wow! But No Foreign Journalists Were There To Report It! The protest was against an attempt by Moon’s party to ram through, in expedited manner, Moon’s special political prosecution unit reform plan. Thousands of people were there to protest it. How can police threaten to arrest reporters covering it? Crazy!”

Many of the protesters were members of conservative groups who support impeached President Park Geun-Hye, Korea JoongAng Daily reported. The pro-Park protesters are known as the “Taegeukgi Troops,” for the Taegeukgi, or the Korean national flag, they always wave.

On Dec. 10, the ruling party and four smaller parties formed a bloc to pass what is known as the “Super Budget” ($432 billion), the largest budget in South Korea’s history, “while excluding the main opposition party,” East Asia Research Center reported.

The Deobureo Minjoo Party (Democratic Party of Korea), together with Bareun Mirae Party, Justice Party, Democratic Peace Party, and New Alternative Party pushed forward in passing the bill, despite LKP’s protest. The bill passed only one minute after it was introduced, the report said.

LKP leader Hwang Kyo-Ahn stated: “This cannot happen within the constitutional history, and it must not happen, but it occurred today. Parliamentary system is destroyed and the rule of law has collapsed. Taxpayers have been robbed. What they snatched today was not the national budget, but people’s livelihood and democracy…The Democratic Party of Korea conspired with their secondary satellite parties to give up their budgetary review under the Constitution and Congressional Law…The sweat and blood [taxes] of the citizens will be used as the ‘rice cake’ (‘pork’) for the political back-trade for the passage of the Semi-interlocked Proportional Representatives Election Law and the Gongsoocheo Act.”

The Gongsoocheo Act, if passed, will create an investigative organization that targets senior officials, such as judges and prosecutors, and it will answer to the president, the East Asia Research Center report said. In effect, it places the judiciary branch under the president, thus undermining the separation of power, and can be used to control the judges and prosecutors.

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