Internal strife paralyses Korea's National Assembly

Internal strife paralyses Korea's National Assembly
PHOTO: Reuters

SOUTH KOREA - Supreme council members of the governing party on Monday tussled over the fate of the party's chief whip amid an intensifying internal feud between lawmakers loyal to President Park Geun-hye and the nonmainstream members who converged to protect Rep. Yoo Seung-min.

The escalating internal strife continued to paralyse the National Assembly as the main opposition party jumped into the fray by blasting the hierarchical relations between Cheong Wa Dae and the governing party.

After an emergency supreme council meeting, Saenuri chief Kim Moo-sung apologised to the people for causing concern and vowed that he would prevent the party from falling apart. Yoo, however, said he would spend time thinking deeply about his fate.

The meeting was held after loyalists to Park, including Reps. Seo Cheong-won and Lee Jeong-hyun, battered floor leader Yoo to resign for disrupting ties between Cheong Wa Dae and the party over a controversial assembly law. Yoo apologised to the president Friday following the president's expression of her blunt dislike of him last week, but has been resisting calls to leave the post. Park also remained mute on Yoo on Monday, appearing to have passed the baton to the party to make a decision on him.

"I believe Yoo would make a decision from a broad point of view," said Seo before attending the emergency supreme council meeting.

"He used to say that he hopes for the success of the Park Geun-hye administration, and now is a good opportunity for him to help her government be a success."

Rep. Lee, who served as Park's top political and press aide, urged Yoo to quit, stressing that he has to take responsibility for causing the political chaos. "Politics is about holding responsibility for the outcomes (of actions). Now is the time for the floor leader to take that responsibility," he said in a radio interview.

Calls have been mounting among the Saenuri members for Yoo to resign after Park vetoed a revision to the National Assembly Act on Thursday, citing unconstitutionality.

Park blasted both parties for overstepping their boundaries and neglecting their duties by passing the bill that enables lawmakers to seek changes to government ordinances.

Park also slammed lawmakers for "betraying the people" and said their act should be judged by voters in the next election.

Her sharp criticism exposed cracks in the relationship between Park and her own party as she directly blamed the Saenuri leadership for succumbing to the opposition party's demand to revise the National Assembly Act on the condition of passing a reform bill on the pension of civil servants.

Meanwhile, nonmainstream members and sympathizers of Yoo were seen uniting against the pro-Park faction. They accused the president's loyalists for driving a political witch hunt.

"Even a criminal under sentence of death won't be executed right away," said Rep. Kim Seong-tae, a Saenuri legislator regarded as being out of the party's mainstream.

A group of 20 nonmainstream lawmakers of the party released a statement, urging the supreme council members not to make a unilateral decision to throw Yoo out.

"The floor leader has been elected through a party caucus accordingly with the party's constitution," read the statement. "The supreme council should not make a decision on its own, ignoring the consensus of all the (Saenuri) lawmakers over (the fate of Yoo), elected through a democratic procedure," it added.

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