|National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-seug answers reporters during an online press conference to mark his 100th day in office, at the National Assembly in Seoul, Wednesday. Park suggested holding the presidential election and local elections, scheduled for March and June 2022, respectively, at the same time to save resources. Yonhap|
By Jung Da-min
National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-seug urged parties, Wednesday, to review a plan to hold the presidential election and local elections, both scheduled in 2022, at the same time, saying it will help the country save the time and effort that is required for the two big events.
"In the first half of 2022, the presidential election and the local elections will be held with only a three-month interval between them," Park said during an online press conference to mark his 100th day in office as the Assembly speaker. The presidential election is set to be held March 9 and the local elections, June 1.
"A considerable consumption of national resources is predicted (when holding two elections in one year). The National Assembly is urged to seriously review whether to carry out the two elections at the same time. The discussions should take place next year."
The call to hold the two major elections together was raised by some lawmakers earlier this year but the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) remained cautious, saying there were no official discussions on the matter inside the party.
With the speaker raising the issue, discussions on the matter are expected to be accelerated at the Assembly.
Park also stressed the need for the "digital transformation" of the Assembly as lawmakers have been facing an unprecedented crisis in their legislative activities due to the COVID-19 situation. Park's press conference, which had originally been scheduled for Sept. 10, was among events that was put off due to the virus outbreaks at the Assembly compound.
As the entire Assembly compound has already undergone temporary shutdowns three times so far, there have been calls for the Assembly to further accelerate its digital transformation to enable online legislative activities such as proposing bills, voting and holding meetings online.
While some lawmakers were seeking amendments to the National Assembly Act to introduce online systems for such legislative activities, others expressed concerns over possible side effects such as the system being abused for other political purposes or security-related issues.
Park said he understands the concerns raised by the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) members, who said the supermajority ruling DPK could abuse the online system to unilaterally push for bills or other activities. But he said such concerns could be resolved by various measures including, for example, establishing a law which requires an agreement between parties to hold online meetings.
Park said cooperation between parties is needed especially during the COVID-19 crisis. A day before the press conference, floor leaders of the DPK and the main opposition PPP agreed to pass this year's fourth extra budget bill at the plenary session scheduled for Sept. 22.
The parties plan to review the details of the supplementary budget aimed at minimizing the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.