|Workers check rice stockpiles at a government rice storage in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province, March 23. Yonhap|
By Nam Hyun-woo
Korea's legislation process faces a potential deadlock as President Yoon Suk Yeol is poised to veto bills that the majority-holding main opposition Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) approved or set to approve, unilaterally.
According to the presidential office, Sunday, Yoon is contemplating whether to exercise his right to demand the National Assembly reconsider a proposed amendment to the Grain Management Act, which was passed unilaterally by the DPK during a March 23 plenary session.
When the president requests the Assembly to reconsider a bill, it requires the attendance of more than half of all registered lawmakers and approvals by two-third of attending legislators to be passed, thus becoming more difficult to get a greenlight. Due to this, demanding a reconsideration is widely considered a veto by the president.
The revision is aimed at requiring the government to purchase surplus rice if the production of the staple surpasses estimated demand by more than 3 to 5 percent or if rice prices decline by more than 5 to 8 percent from a year earlier. Yoon has been opposing this, citing an anticipated waste of the state budget.
Despite opposition from Yoon and the ruling People Power Party (PPP), the DPK tabled the revision directly to the plenary session by bypassing the Assembly's Legislation and Judiciary Committee, which is chaired by PPP Rep. Kim Do-eup, so that the main opposition party can use its majority to unilaterally approve the revision.
To be voted at a plenary session, a bill has to be passed by the legislation committee. However, if the bill is not passed by the legislation committee within 60 days, a committee that tabled the bill can bypass the legislation committee and submit it to the plenary session directly upon the tabled committee members' approval.
|President Yoon Suk Yeol speaks during a Cabinet meeting at the presidential office in Yongsan District, Seoul, March 21. Yonhap|
After the grain law revision was passed by the Assembly, the presidential office said it "will heed various opinions including concerns on the revision and will take time for deliberation."
Although the office said it will carefully review the revision, multiple presidential aides said "chances are high for Yoon to veto it" and "will not change his stance on the revision." Given this, the revision will likely be the first bill the president will veto.
If Yoon vetoes the revision, the DPK is anticipated to table a new bill containing similar content to add pressure on the president. A key DPK official told local media that the party is "considering whether to table a new bill that obligates the government to purchase surplus rice."
|Lawmakers pass a revision to the Grain Management Act during a plenary session at the National Assembly in Yeouido, March 23. Yonhap|
Casting a gloomier outlook is the fact that a number of other revisions are likely to follow in the footsteps of the grain law revision case.
During the March 23 plenary session, a bill on enacting a separate act for nurses, a revision of the Broadcasting Act and four other law revisions were decided to be voted as plenary session agendas, as they had been pending for more than 60 days at the legislation committee due to sharp divisions between the rival parties.
Also, the DPK is now seeking to directly table the so-called "Yellow Envelope Act" at a plenary session by bypassing the legislation committee. The Yellow Envelope Act is a subject of heated controversy, because it is aimed at amending articles of the Trade Union and Labor Relations Adjustment Act to limit companies from demanding compensation from labor unions that stage strikes.
Since the ruling PPP has opposed the revisions, chances are high for Yoon to veto those bills, placing the country's legislative process in a quagmire.
"This vicious cycle will likely continue until next year's general election," said Park Sang-byeong, a professor at Inha University's Graduate School of Policy Science.
Park said the mainstream factions of both the ruling and opposition camps are siding with extremists, making no effort to find a middle-ground where the two sides can compromise.
"Yoon's hands are tied when it comes to achieving anything under the current situation (of the DPK holding the Assembly's majority.) With Yoon showing no signs of compromise, the DPK, on the other hand, can achieve a victory in next year's election by jeopardizing every move by the Yoon administration," he said.