+ A

2 opposition parties call a boycott of the legislature

July 06,2017
To protest President Moon Jae-in’s appointment of Kim Sang-gon as deputy prime minister and education minister, the two conservative opposition parties declared a boycott of all parliamentary activities, except for those related to national security.

On Tuesday, Moon announced his official appointment of Kim, the former Gyeonggi education office chief, as education minister and deputy prime minister for social affairs. The announcement came despite warnings from the opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) and Bareun Party that the appointment would dampen bipartisan cooperation needed by the Moon government.

Hong Joon-pyo, who was elected LKP chairman Monday, said Kim’s appointment would “neutralize the purpose of Assembly hearings” during a party supreme council meeting at the party headquarters in Yeouido, western Seoul.

“If the government continues to appoint ministers despite the opposition’s objections, it will have a lot of difficulty seeking bipartisan cooperation,” warned the new party chief, who unsuccessfully ran for president against Moon just two months ago.

LKP floor leader Chung Woo-taik said the appointment was made “in complete disregard of the National Assembly and the opposition.”

The LKP announced it would boycott all parliamentary activities during the ongoing July extraordinary session, which wraps up on July 18, except for those related to national security after North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test on Tuesday. The Bareun Party, which has 20 lawmakers, announced a similar boycott.

The two conservative parties demanded Moon withdraw his nomination of Kim, citing what they perceive to be Kim’s “Pyongyang-friendly” stance. The parties said Kim was unfit to serve as education chief considering his “pro-North beliefs.” The ruling Democratic Party (DP) rebuffed the opposition, calling such criticisms “Korean style McCarthyism.”

With the boycotts, the prospect of reaching the bipartisan deal on a supplementary budget bill worth $10 billion proposed by the Blue House during the ongoing parliamentary session has diminished. The opposition parties also walked away from negotiations on passing a government reorganization act.

The opposition People’s Party remained committed to working with the DP to narrow down differences on the $10 billion supplementary bill. But it warned that if the Blue House goes ahead with appointing Defense Minister nominee Song Young-moo and Labor Minister nominee Cho Dae-yop, both of whom are opposed by all three opposition parties, its position could change.

Song and Cho are both under fire for their records of driving under the influence of alcohol.

Moon asked the Assembly to adopt reports on the outcome of confirmation hearings on the two nominees by Monday. Even if the opposition refuses to do so, Moon can still officially appoint them as ministers as he did for Kim Sang-gon and Foreign Affairs Minister Kang Kyung-wha.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]