Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Nation In Waiting: The Assembly

      The General Assembly of the Republic of Korea certainly showcases far more modern/sleek aesthetics then says the Capitol Building in Washington DC. Located in the center of Yoi Island, which South Koreans often compare with Manhattan, the building is a testament to Korean perseverance, symbolism and early attitude towards reunification. according to our guide the building is guarded by statues of mythical creatures that ward off fire energy (fire being thought to be the most destructive force, according to the guide) to battle the bad fung shui of the position of the building in proximity to the mountains.

          Inside the Assembly Building we were led as a group to the journalists viewing area of the Assembly Chambers. The assembly floor took up at least three floors of the building and consisted of a fan shaped seating arrangement for the parliament with the speakers place at the base. Parties are spread out on the assembly floor in the different segments of the "fan", with the ruling party, the Saenuri party, sitting in the primary seats and the opposition and minority parties to the right of the room.

Out of these seats 56 members are voted in by proportional representation rather than single member constituencies. I was curious as to any differences in the role of a representative who was proportionally elected but I was told that the function of said representative is the same but informally the amount of political clout a representative has is more if they are elected through single member constituencies. Proportional representatives also seem to be professionals in some field or another other than politics

      I was intrigued when our guide explained that freshman representatives sit towards the front whilst senior party members sit towards the back. I had thought that this was to maintain party discipline, but instead I was told that it was to allow the senior party members the ability to slip out of chambers quickly and come back without the cameras noticing them. This fact came as a bit of a disappointment but an interesting tidbit nonetheless.

At the end of our tour we stopped in the main hall and we learned about the layout of the building and how it was designed to accommodate another chamber or assembly if the reunification leads to a need for more representatives. I thought this was the most interesting and telling of the South Korean government’s strong desire for unification.

Gordon, signing off.

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