Panel passes election revision
bills, but far from reaching compromise on other changes
By Joo Sang-min
Parliament's political reform committee has agreed on three
election revisions but is a long way from reaching consensus on
other major changes.
Committee members resolved issues such as cutting out corporate
election campaign donations and smoothing out the playing field for
rookie candidates who are often at a disadvantage to incumbent
lawmakers when trying to get out their messages to voters.
But the committee failed to iron out differences on the number of
parliamentary seats and how to reorganize constituencies. Members,
who represent the National Assembly's four parties, remain at odds
despite their policy coordinators having approved a plan.
The coordinators yesterday reached a tentative agreement on
proposed changes to the Elections Law, which would see each riding
have a population of between 105,000 and 315,000 voters. The current
population requirement ranges from 90,000 to 340,000.
The plan would not increase the number of seats in the Assembly,
which now stands at 273, including the Speaker. It would
redistribute ridings to reflect current populations across the
nation and make for more equitable parliamentary representation.
They also agreed on a new distribution of seats to be allocated
for proportional representation and direct voting.
Under current law 46 seats are distributed among the parties
based on how many votes each receives. The coordinators recommend
reducing this number to 36. This means about 237 legislators would
be elected by direct voting, compared to 227 now.
Despite stalemates on those issues, the election reform committee
did have some success yesterday.
The committee approved amendments to the Elections Law to
neutralize incumbent politicians' apparent advantages.
Rookie candidates will be permitted to distribute name cards and
e-mail their profiles to voters as early as 120 days prior to
elections, while the official campaign period will shrink to 14 days
from 17 days. Legislators fined more than 3 million won for
violating the law automatically will be relieved of their seats.
Under the current law, parliamentary candidates are prohibited
from starting campaigns more than 17 days before voting day.
The Political Funds Law will also be revised to prohibit
companies and organizations from making donations in any amount to
political parties. A company is now allowed to donate up to 250
million won per year. Individuals can still make personal
To cut the cost of elections, parties' local district offices
will be shut down under changes to the Political Parties Law, which
will also require that female politicians fill more than half the
seats allocated under the proportional representation system.
The changes the committee agreed to have been referred to the
National Assembly for final approval sometime during the current
The contentious issues are still subject to further discussion by