The Korea Herald


Opposition party passes contentious labor, broadcasting bills

By Park Jun-hee

Published : Nov. 9, 2023 - 18:38

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(Yonhap) (Yonhap)

The main opposition Democratic Party of Korea on Thursday afternoon passed a contentious pro-labor bill and three broadcasting bills during a plenary session at the National Assembly, a move that comes after the ruling People Power Party announced that it would withdraw threats of a filibuster.

The partial amendments to all three broadcasting bills and the pro-labor “yellow envelope bill” were unilaterally passed, with all participating members voting in favor. Members of the ruling party, who had opposed the bill, were absent at the vote as a protest against the opposition’s stand-alone move.

The People Power Party readied to launch a filibuster during the session to block the attempt, but pulled out from the stonewall in what it said was to prevent the “malicious political intention” of the Democratic Party by deciding to pursue the impeachment of the newly appointed chief of the Korea Communications Commission.

“We would like to ask the public to understand and support us" for lifting the decision to launch a filibuster, People Power Party Floor Leader Yun Jae-ok told reporters.

The yellow envelope bill enhances the accountability of primary contractors regarding their subcontracted workers and curbs the ability of companies to make indiscriminate damage claims against workers on strike. The government and the ruling party believe that passage of the bill would lead to extreme confusion in the industrial field.

The Korea Federation of Small and Medium Businesses expressed regret over the passage and requested President Yoon Suk Yeol exercise his veto right.

It released a statement the same day, saying the small and medium-sized business community expresses “deep regret” that the opposition party accepted only the one-sided opinion of the labor community and pushed through the amendment.

The business community also expressed concern that the industrial ecosystem could collapse, saying it has the potential to encourage illegal strikes by labor unions.

Kang Seok-gu, head of the investigation division of the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, expressed his concerns in a statement, saying it will “shake the foundation and order of our country's industrial sites” and “seriously damage the long-established legal system,” negatively impacting the domestic industrial ecosystem and jobs.

The three broadcasting bills are amendments to the Broadcasting Act, the Foundation for Broadcast Culture Act and the Korea Educational Broadcasting System Act, all of which are intended to reform the governance structure of the country’s public broadcast media.

They include provisions to up the number of directors on the public broadcasting board to 21, from the current nine at terrestrial broadcaster MBC and EBS and 11 at public broadcaster KBS, as well as expanding the authority to recommend directors to the concerned third party, such as those in broadcasting and media-related academies or the committee for viewers.

South Korean parties on both sides of the aisle have been at odds regarding the bills.

While the People Power Party has claimed that the broadcasting bills would only increase the presence and influence of progressive figures on the boards of public broadcasters, the Democratic Party has insisted that the new measures would prevent political leverage in appointing the heads of public broadcasters.