|Rep. Kim Sang-hee, a three-term lawmaker of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK), holds a press conference at the National Assembly in Seoul, May 15, to declare her bid to run in the party race for the National Assembly deputy speaker position in the upcoming 21st National Assembly. Kim has become the only candidate, as the other male candidates from the party dropped out of the race. Yonhap|
By Jung Da-min
Rep. Kim Sang-hee of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) will be the National Assembly's first female deputy speaker. Kim has served three terms as a lawmaker and has led civic movements for about 30 years, promoting democratization, women's rights and environmental issues.
"It is true that there have been glass ceilings for female politicians in the National Assembly but they are being lifted one by one," Kim said during a radio interview with local broadcaster YTN, Thursday. "It has a very important meaning that a woman will be standing on the podium for the speaker's panel inside the plenary chamber for the first time in 73 years. I will present a symbolic figure of politics in which men and women join together, moving toward a society of gender equality."
As the country's two major parties, the DPK and the main opposition United Future Party (UFP), are the only parties which have met the minimum quota of 20 seats to form a floor negotiation group in the upcoming 21st National Assembly, and according to custom the two deputy speaker positions at the National Assembly will be given to them.
Kim became the only candidate for the DPK as of Wednesday as male candidates including Rep. Lee Sang-min and Rep. Byun Jae-il dropped out of the race, with party members widely agreeing on selecting one candidate.
Kim entered politics in 2007, joining the now-defunct progressive United New Democratic Party which had splintered off from then-ruling Uri Party. After winning a seat as a proportional representation lawmaker in the 18th National Assembly, Kim won a constituency seat in Sosa-gu, Bucheon in Gyeonggi Province, for three consecutive terms for the 19th, 20th and 21st Assemblies.
Earlier on May 15, Kim officially declared her bid to run in the race for the deputy speaker position, saying, "2020 should become the National Assembly's first year of gender equality. My entry to the National Assembly speaker's office will shatter a glass ceiling in male-dominated politics."
The DPK will hold a general meeting of lawmakers-elect for the 21st National Assembly, May 25, to confirm the selection of Kim as deputy speaker and Rep. Park Byeong-seug, a five-term lawmaker, as speaker. Park is also the only candidate for the speaker position, which is given to a candidate from the majority party.
Meanwhile, the UFP is expected to select Rep. Chung Jin-suk, a four-term lawmaker, as their candidate for the other deputy speaker position.
If confirmed in early June through a vote at a plenary meeting of the upcoming 21st National Assembly, which will kick off May 30, the three lawmakers ― Kim and Chung as deputy speakers and Park as speaker ― will serve for two years in the first half of the Assembly.