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Electoral Reform Law Passes in South Korean National Assembly

(Image source- JTBC News 12.27)

The number of seats determined by district elections to seats in the National Assembly is the same as the prior election 253 seats. The number of seats determined by proportional representation is also the same 47 seats. However, the old (Hare) method is applied to 17 of the 47 seats. A new method of selecting proportional representation is applied to 30 of the 47 seats. An interlocking restriction of 50 percent is applied to proportional allocation of the seats to prevent the emergence of "excess seats." It is believed that the reform will most disadvantage the largest parties, namely the ruling Democratic Party and the main opposition party, the Liberty Korea Party, in the upcoming April 15, 2020 election for the National Assembly. The LKP has already registered a satellite party with the election commission in an attempt to field a minor party list which might benefit from the calculations and circumvent limitations in the proportional representation reform law.

(Image source- JTBC News 12.27)

The graphic above is a hypothetical projection of the results of the new fast track electoral reform law passed today in the Korean National Assembly, calculated with numbers from the 2016 general election. Note that some of the parties have changed in their composition since then, particularly the People's Party. So in this simulation, the Democratic Party loses 8 seats and the Liberty Korea Party loses 10. The People's Party (hypothetically) would gain 13 seats and the Justice Party would gain 5. Theoretically, this 13 seat gain would primarily acrue to the Barunmirae Party, the principal offspring of the People's Party in existence now. It is no coincidence that the Barunmirae Party and the Justice Party were the biggest supporters of the electoral reform and had to be cajoled by the Democratic Party to accept a compromise which downsized the proportional representation from 75 seats, as originally proposed, to 47 seats. Another significant aspect of the reform is the lowering of the age to vote to 18 years.

The exact nature and mechanics of all the new changes in the electoral reform law are hard to find. Past discussions of electoral reform changes have included the notion of regional proportionality in representation as opposed to a simple national proportionality. The details of those determinations and their mechanics are not clear as yet. In response to questions, the Justice Party floor leader said "the people don't need to know how it works," believe it or not. One wonders how many journalists actually do know how it works at this point. In the original reform proposal, representation in regional seats more than 30 percent of the total for the region, would limit supplemental proportionate representation. Naturally, this would adversely affect the largest parties.

(Source: YTN News, 12.28) Happening again, "animal National Assembly." The speaker of the assembly's platform is occupied (by a "human wall" of Liberty Korea Party representatives); a physical fight is ongoing. Speaker Moon center being physically assaulted by members of the Liberty Korea Party attempting to stall the passage of the electoral reform bill.

There will be two votes on the ballot in each district, one vote for the candidate to represent the district among the 253 district representative seats. The second vote to select a preferred party list nominating candidates for proportional representation. One thing is for certain, the LKP has been adamantly opposed to the fast track reform of the electoral system but it passed today anyway, in spite of all their illegal demonstrations, violence, threats, and physical intimidation outside the Assembly, and obstruction even inside the National Assembly itself today. LKP threats of a filibuster notwithstanding, the legislation passed. Now only the fast track prosecutorial reform bill is pending. Again this in the face of LKP stonewalling, demonstrations, and threats of filibuster. During the acrimony and disorder in the Assembly today, catcalling from the LKP represenatives was met with one telling response from a Democratic Party member, "we'll see how you do in the next election." The desperation of the far right party is palpable.

South Korea: LKP Thugs Threaten National Assembly

(Source- 닥쳐라정치, 12.16 ) Hwang Kyo-ahn, Liberty Korea Party leader, heads an unlawful demonstration of unruly right wing followers obstructing the entrance to the South Korean National Assembly Building.

(Source- JTBC News, 12.16) Hwang Kyo-ahn stands front and center of a group gathered unlawfully under LKP direction in front of the National Assembly building in Seoul, Korea.

Ambassador Harris, has signaled the US preference for the militarists on the far right in South Korea. The US flags at this unlawful Liberty Korea Party demonstration trespassing on the National Assembly grounds are their symbol of US bona fides. Their thuggish tactics at the democratic seat of government in South Korea are a political disgrace. The trespassers and bullies in front of the National Assembly building aim to shut down the National Assembly because they don't believe in democratic government. The fascist right is out of power and now an element of the opposition. They lost power when Park Geun-hye was impeached in April 2017. There was almost a military coup then imposed by martial law to derail the impeachment and trial of the now imprisoned Park Geun-hye. There appears to be the possibility of a coup now. It's safe to speculate that reactionary right wing governments in the US and Japan would have no problem with that.

Some of the fascist thugs in this crowd being encouraged to fight by the LKP leader Hwang Kyo-ahn allegedly assaulted some thirty members of the Democratic Party trying to go to work inside the assembly building. Hwang encouraged the trespassers, "we're winning. Thank you for your efforts." A former governor of Gyeonggido addressed the group telling them to not feel uncomfortable approaching the Assembly building because it was "their home" and that they should "make themselves comfortable." Demonstrating within a hundred meters of the National Assembly building is unlawful. The crowd also vandalized the reserved parking spaces for specific members of the Assembly, including the Speaker of the Assembly and the leader of the Democratic Party. The right wing supporters of the LKP and Hwang forced their way through the front gates of the grounds ostensibly protected by the police guards there. A small number of demonstrators forced themselves into the building and became involved in a melee.

This is not a popular rebellion, it is groundwork being laid for martial law and a right wing coup d'etat. It's purpose is to create an atmosphere of intimidation and anarchy. The crowd is interfering with the functions of the National Legislature in a unlawful manner and directly threatening members of the Assembly that they don't like and have targeted for intimidation. Hwang had been criticized in the past by his base for not executing martial law in March or early April 2017 when the plans were in place Now he seems to be approaching the moment when he can be the man to trigger such an outcome, or at least create the circumstances where such an action can be entertained and rationalized.

This crowd wasn't that big. There is a cadre of political operatives running it supported by younger athletic men who know exactly what they are doing when they make physical contact with police and assault others.

This is a militarist right wing movement with christian evangelical support that arose out of the prior dictatorships and the prior corrupt administrations of Lee Myung-bak, and Park Geun-hye. Their goal is to overthrow the constitutionally elected government by obstructing its activities with unlawful methods including force. As predicted earlier here, the tactics take on the same characteristics as the movement in Hong Kong. The occupation of the legislative grounds and building was unprecedented. If a larger better equipped and directed police force is not present in the future, we can expect normal governance to cease in South Korea.

The parties of the left, center, and center right in South Korea need to close ranks and govern with resolve or they and their democracy will be destroyed.

US-North Korea: Maximum Pressure Leading to Maximum Failure?

The obstacle to progress in denuclearization negotiations with North Korea is still the fundamental confrontation over the step by step method versus the all or nothing, no concessions, no trust building approach favored by US officials, and the national security establishment. Most Korea "experts" inside the beltway echo chamber just refuse to acknowledge this fundamental shortcoming in the US diplomatic approach which is first a process issue, and then secondarily a matter of great substantial importance. Either that, or they just want regime change in North Korea and can't imagine bargaining with the communist dictatorship under any circumstances other than complete capitulation by the North, often referred to as the Libyan approach.

"Sanctions have reached a point of diminishing returns. It is unlikely, therefore, that more “maximum pressure,” without a diplomatic strategy that offers Pyongyang positive inducements to negotiate steps toward denuclearization, will deliver results."
Richard Nephew

Furious Futility: Maximum Pressure in 2020
NOVEMBER 15, 2019

Town said North Korea has previously indicated a willingness to give up parts of its nuclear program as a first-phase deal, but not to discuss complete denuclearization up front.

“The North Koreans have always preferred a step by step approach rather than negotiating everything all at once,” Town said.
Jenny Town, editor of 38North.org

North Korea's U.N. envoy says denuclearization off negotiating table with United States
Michelle Nichols, David Brunnstrom Dec. 7, 2019

This is also the procedural approach favored by Russia, China, and South Korea.

SEOUL - A senior adviser to South Korea's president expressed a broad range of frustrations at U.S. policy toward North Korea, saying Washington has not adequately empowered Seoul to play a mediating role with Pyongyang.

In an interview with VOA, Jeong Se-Hyun, who advises South Korean President Moon Jae-in on unification issues, also said the U.S. should offer more incentives to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

"Don't act as if you're offering a carrot while really you are using a stick," said Jeong. "North Korea must first be given carrots. Then if that doesn't work, you use a whip."

As North Korea's Deadline Approaches, South Pushes US for Progress
By William Gallo VOA News December 01, 2019 10:04 AM

Achieving security and stability and reducing catastrophic risks on the peninsula will require intensive, expert-level negotiations and comprehensive, step-by-step implementation over many months and years. This broader effort cannot be viewed solely as a bilateral U.S.-North Korean discussion. It also must include China, South Korea, Japan, and Russia and address the security and political concerns of all the parties, including economic and humanitarian matters.

Economic, military, and diplomatic pressure helped bring the North Koreans to the table, but reaching a successful agreement will require carrots as well as sticks.
Ernst J. Moniz and Sam Nunn

Lynn Rusten and Richard Johnson with Steve Andreasen and Hayley Anne Severance, Building Security Through Cooperation: Report of the NTI Working Group on Cooperative Threat Reduction with North Korea (Washington, DC: Nuclear Threat Initiative, 2019), 2, https://media.nti.org/documents/NTI_DPRK2019_RPT_FNL.pdf. (from the forward by Ernst J. Moniz and Sam Nunn)

South Korea: LKP Executive Committee rejects Na Kyung-won as Assembly floor leader

(Source- JTBC News, 12.4) Na Kyung-won, LKP floor leader in the National Assembly. "Today at the regular session, I will not question the matter of my term extension. Floor leader Na Kyung-won's foot steps stop here."

The Executive Committee of the right wing Liberty Korea Party earlier today after an all night long conference, voted not to renew Na Kyung-won's position as the Floor Leader of the opposition party in the National Assembly. It appears the conference where the decision took place was in a tent outside the Blue House grounds where LKP leader and former Prime Minister, Hwang Kyo-Ahn, had been conducting his "hunger strike" until he gave that up last week. However after he left the hospital he returned to the scene of his demonstration where his followers and supporters waited.

At the opening of the National Assembly this morning, Na somewhat bitterly, announced she would respect the decision of the LKP Executive Committee, and not take a further step as the party floor leader. This "in order to ensure the good of the people and the unity of the party." There is a storm of indignation and criticism within the Liberty Korea Party at the step taken by the so called "pro Hwang faction" in the Executive Committee. Expressions of resistance, public, private and on line to the committee's resolution was plentiful. LKP members of the National Assembly questioned the authority of the party committee to make such a decision, and maintained it was the prerogative of sitting LKP National Assembly members. Further, some felt that the committee was without authority to make such a determination when the new session of the National Assembly was not yet convened pending elections in April.

(Source- JTBC News, 11.20) Liberty Korea Party leader, Hwang Kyo-ahn on a hunger strike in front of the Blue House grounds.

The future of the right wing opposition party is in doubt at a critical time in South Korean history as the rift between Hwang and Na breaks out into the open. One wonders what Na and Hwang discussed when she visited his tent in front of the Blue House grounds after returning from her recent US visit. That the Executive Committee's action might portend the end of the Liberty Korea Party as we know it, was a fear expressed publicly by some members. One LKP assembly member openly criticized Hwang's hunger strike affecting a pose as a party reformer, attempting to sanctify the party. His head shaving and fasting reminiscent of traditional ascetic protests, previously used by revered left leaning reformers such as Kim Dae-jung who opposed the prior military dictatorships of South Korea. The omnipresence of Christian conference leaders and their followers at Hwang's demonstration are an indication of where the base of former impeached President Park's predecessor Saenuri party lay.

Hwang's holier than thou effect, is an implied but unexpressed contrast to the alleged corruption and hypocrisy of Na Kyung-won's effort to use her political position during the Lee Myung-bak presidency to obtain her daughter's admission to college. This is the very same type of behavior that was used to drive the former democratic party justice minister from power only several weeks ago. I asked three weeks ago in a previous analysis, how long would Na last?*

*Conservative LKP Leader Na Kyung-won on the Ropes? November 14, 2019

The internal criticism of the Executive Committee's action by Na's supporters within the LKP suggests that Hwang has privatized the party, making it his personal domain, betraying "the interests of the people." Na had just recently declared an all out legislative confrontation with the ruling coalition in the National Assembly by carrying out a filibuster to block all pending legislation before the end of the legislative session unless the proposed fast track reform bills were set aside by the Democratic Party. Democratic Party leaders are attempting to devise a strategy in conjunction with three small minority parties to nullify the filibuster. One tactic would be to declare an end to the regular session next week followed immediately by an extraordinary sesssion of the National Assembly to pass all pending legislation. Filibusters are not allowed in extraordinary session. So the looming constitutional crisis continues. It was hoped on the right that the left would be the victim, but it appears the right may crack first under the pressure.
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