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The National Assembly Hosts a Roundtable on the “Establishment of the ROK-U.S. Parliamentary Union and Why It is Needed?

Date : 2023-04-26 Writer : NAFI

The National Assembly Hosts a Roundtable on the “Establishment of the ROK-U.S. Parliamentary Union and Why It is Needed?”

- Kim Jin Pyo, Speaker of the National Assembly, stated, “This year marks the 70th anniversary of the ROK-U.S. alliance; parliamentary cooperation is needed for the next 70 years.” -

- Sue Mi Terry, Director of the Wilson Center, stated, “The U.S. Congress considers regional issues crucial, and there is a need to enhance exchanges between the House and Senate as well as their staff.”-

On April 26th, the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea, under the leadership of Speaker Kim Jin Pyo, held a roundtable on “Establishment of the ROK-U.S. Parliamentary Union and Why It is Needed?” at the Assembly Reception Room at 2 p.m.

In his opening remarks, Speaker Kim Jin Pyo emphasized the importance of “inter-parliamentary cooperation between South Korea and the U.S. in the 70th anniversary year of the ROK-U.S. alliance and for the next 70 years” and proposed “the establishment of the ‘ROK-U.S. Parliamentary Union.’” He highlighted the roundtable as “a platform to significantly strengthen Korea-U.S. parliamentary diplomacy and explore ways for the legislature to proactively respond to the changing international order.”

In his congratulatory remarks, Chang Ho-jin, the First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, noted that the ROK-U.S. alliance has expanded and deepened into a “global comprehensive strategic alliance” firmly rooted in the shared values of promoting freedom, democracy, and human rights, and confirmed that the South Korean President’s visit to the United States will also present a blueprint for the “ROK-U.S. alliance moving forward into the future.” Additionally, he mentioned that the National Assembly adopted the “special resolution on bilateral sustainable development between South Korea and the United States in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the ROK-U.S. alliance” on April 24, noting its bipartisan support for the ROK-U.S. allinace has led to a positive response from the U.S. Congress.

In the following congratulatory remarks by Joy M. Sakurai, Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in South Korea, expressed support for the establishment of the ROK-U.S. Parliamentary Union. She anticipated that the union would institutionalize regular exhcnages and cooperation between the South Korean National Assembly and the U.S. Congress, facilitating the enhancement of bilateral government relations and addressing common issues between the two countries.

The keynote speaker, Sue Mi Terry, Director of the Asia Program at the Wilson Center, provided detailed insights into the bicameral system of the U.S. Congress and suggested approaches to consider when engaging with House and Senate members and their staff. In particular, she emphasized that the House of Representatives is highly influenced not only by party opinions but also by the interest of local constituencies, so it is necessary to identify the characteristics of constituencies and focus on keeping in touch with lawmakers who are interested in Korea’s investment in the United States. She added that in the case of the Senate, the influence of each senator’s voting power is significant, so it is necessary to reach out to as many senators as possible to discuss various interests. Finally, she highlighted that exchanges between staff members are also very important to deepen understanding between the South Korean National Assembly and the U.S. Congress.

Seo Jungkun, Professor at Kyung Hee University, gave a presentation on the diplomatic role of legislatures. He suggested that interparliamentary exchanges between South Korea and the United States should broaden the understanding of the U.S., enhance the scope of mutual exchange and information sharing, and support the South Korean government in implementing agreed-upon foreign policies. Professor Seo highlighted the importance of not only establishing but also activating the ROK-U.S. Parliamentary Union in his proposal for interparliamentary exchanges and cooperation between the two countries. He also recommended focusing on small group exchanges that prioritize critical issues such as security, trade, and science. Moreover, he proposed the establishment of a regular and permanent communication channel, similar to the parliamentary liaison office in Australia, to facilitate continuous communication between the two legislatures.

In the discussion moderated by Ahn Ho-Young, former Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the United States, National Assembly member Ha Taekeung pointed out the limitations of polarized domestic politics amidst the public’s heightened interest in global affairs and emphasized the need for bipartisan cooperation in diplomacy and security. Additionally, he stressed the need for interparliamentary exchanges with various countries to overcome the domestic political dependence in diplomatic affairs and security and to promote parliamentary diplomacy, and suggested establishing a liaison office for the ROK-U.S. Parliamentary Union and promoting cooperation between future generations.

National Assembly member Kim Youngbae highlighted the influence of U.S. politics in driving the ideology and values of representative democracy, the need for systematic cooperation between the Korean and U.S. parliaments in addressing the seriousness of global changes such as shifts in the international order and climate change, the importance of establishing a permanent channel between the legislatures that is differentiated from the executive branch, which is subject to periodic changes, and the need for institutional frameworks for leapfrogging the South Korea-U.S. relationship in line with Korea’s evolving international status.

Park Ihn-hwi, President of the Korean Association of International Studies, emphasized the need to make available and explore various foreign and security policy resources through the parliament in the sense of seeking a balance against excessive resource concentration despite the executive branch-led nature of foreign and security issues. He also pointed out the need to increase the responsibilities of the legislature in the field of diplomatic and security affairs, emphasizing that legislatures serve as spaces for extensive engagement with policy decision-makers and stakeholders. He expressed the view that institutionalizing the ROK-U.S. Parliamentary Union could establish a foundation for sustained cooperation between legislatures, fostering a new development in the South Korea-U.S. relationship.

During the discussion, Speaker Kim Jin Pyo acknowledged the significance of regional constituencies in U.S. congressional politics and expressed his commitment to “lead the establishment and activation of the ROK-U.S. Parlimantary Union based on a close examination of the realities of the U.S. Congress during future visits to the United States.” Former Ambassador Ahn Ho-Young reiterated the importance of regional constituencies in the U.S. Congress, as emphasized by Director Sue Mi Terry, and the need for activating the ROK-U.S. Parliamentary Union, as mentioned by Professor Seo Jungkun.

In addition to Speaker Kim Jin Pyo, presenters, and panelists, Lee Kwang-jae, Secretary-General of the National Assembly, Park Kyung-mee, chief of staff at the speaker’s office, Park Jangho, Deputy Legislative Director of the National Assembly, Hong Hyun-sun, Deputy Secretary-General of the National Assembly, Lee Myung Woo, Chief Librarian of the National Assembly Library, Park Sang-Chul, Chief of the National Assembly Research Service, and Kim Hyeon Kon, President of the National Assembly Futures Institute, have jointed the debate.

The National Assembly plans to continue the process and conduct follow-up research to ensure that the discussions from this roundtable are practically reflected in the establishment of the ROK-U.S. Parliamentary Union.