The Democratic Party of Korea is going against common sense and procedural norms in order to push through bills that will strip the prosecution of all of its investigative powers. Min Hyungbae, a member of the National Assembly’s legislation and judiciary committee, defected from the party on Wednesday to become an independent lawmaker.
The party is pushing bills to revise the Criminal Procedure Act and the Prosecution Office Act, which will take the prosecution’s hands off all investigations and allow it only the power to indict. The party’s goal is to pass them before President Moon Jae-in’s presidency ends on May 9. The party is rushing to revise the bills by that date because otherwise, the revisions will be vetoed by the incoming President Yoon Suk-yeol of the People Power Party. Min’s defection is a move to secure the passage of the bills through the agenda coordination committee of the legislation and judiciary committee. The coordination committee is an organ set up to discuss differences on an agenda. Discussion can last for a maximum of 90 days.
The committee, if called, will be composed of six members of the legislation and judiciary committee. An agenda passes the coordination committee if four of its six members approve it. The Democratic Party took a step on April 7 to barter Park Sungjoon, a Democratic Party lawmaker on the legislation and judiciary committee, for Yang Hyang-ja, an independent lawmaker of the strategy and finance committee. The National Assembly Speaker and former Democratic Party lawmaker Park Byeong-seug allowed the exchange. This was a shameless trick to pass the bills through the coordination committee.
The legislation and judiciary committee was bipartisan, with 12 Democratic Party and six People Power Party lawmakers before the barter. If an independent lawmaker sits on the legislation and judiciary committee, the makeup of the coordination committee changes into three Democratic Party and two People Power Party lawmakers, and one independent. However, against the Democratic Party’s expectations, Yang, who remains as an independent lawmaker after leaving the party over her aide’s sexual harassment scandal, effectively took an opposing position on the bills on Tuesday.
This is when Min bolted from the party to become another independent member of the legislation and judiciary committee. He opened the way for the bills to pass the coordination committee. As using Yang looked unlikely to work out as intended, the party tried another trick ~ defection. This is not common sense, and far from normal. Min, a hardline supporter of the bills, was assigned to the legislation and judiciary committee through barter of So Byung-chul, who was not regarded as a strong backer. For the same reason, Song Ki-hun of the legislation and judiciary committee was replaced with another hardliner, Choe Kang-wook. The party also bartered Kim Jong-min for Kim Jin-pyo of the national defence committee. Kim Jin-pyo, 75, is the oldest incumbent law-maker. It is customary for the oldest member to chair the committee.