SEOUL, National Assembly Speaker Chung Sye-kyun hinted Thursday at the possibility of invoking his right to hold a plenary session without consent from opposition parties in order to accept the resignations of lawmakers running in the upcoming local elections.
The move, if realized, would be a boon to the ruling Democratic Party because the Assembly's approval of the resignations of the four lawmakers would enable by-elections to be held at the same time as June's local elections, at a time when popularity of the ruling party is running high.
During a visit to Rep. Kim Sung-tae, floor leader of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, Chung said he's taking a serious look at the possibility of convening a plenary session on his own in order to accept the resignations.
"Members of the National Assembly represent their regions. It would go against the basic principle of democracy to leave certain regions vacant without representation," Chung said during the visit to Kim, who has been on a hunger strike to call for the ruling party to agree to an independent counsel investigation into an opinion rigging scandal.
Three of the four resigning lawmakers -- Reps. Park Nam-chun, Yang Seung-jo and Kim Kyung-soo -- are with the ruling party, and the other, Rep. Lee Cheol-woo, is with the main opposition party.
The ruling party believes that, if by-elections are held in June, it can sweep all four seats. The party's approval rating this week reached an all-time high of 56.9 percent against the main opposition party's 17.4 percent.
Unless the resignations are endorsed at a plenary session by May 14, however, by-elections to fill the vacant seats would be put off until after April next year.
The National Assembly has been idling as the main opposition LKP has been boycotting all parliamentary proceedings while demanding that the ruling party agree to a special investigation into the opinion rigging scandal.
The LKP bristled strongly at Chung's suggestion.
"The opposition party cannot help but put up a greater fight" if Chung invokes his right to hold a plenary session, Rep. Yun Jae-ok, a party spokesman, said. "Speaker Chung should not leave a blemish in his career as a lifetime parliamentary democracy advocate."
Source: Yonhap News Agency