South Korea Table of Contents
National Assembly in plenary session, Seoul
Courtesy Korean Overseas Information Service
The unicameral National Assembly consists, according to the Constitution, of at least 200 members. In 1990 the National Assembly had 299 seats, 224 of which were directly elected from single-member districts in the general elections of April 1988. Under applicable laws, the remaining seventy-five representatives were appointed by the political parties in accordance with a proportional formula based on the number of seats won in the election. By law, candidates for election to the National Assembly must be at least thirty years of age. As part of a political compromise in 1987, an earlier requirement that candidates have at least five years' continuous residency in the country was dropped to allow Kim Dae Jung, who had spent several years in exile in Japan and the United States during the 1980s, to return to political life. The National Assembly's term is four years. In a change from the more authoritarian Fourth Republic and Fifth Republic (1972-80 and 1980-87, respectively), under the Sixth Republic, the National Assembly cannot be dissolved by the president.
Legislators are immune from arrest or detention, except in cases of flagrante delicto, while the National Assembly is in session. If an arrest occurs before the National Assembly session begins, the legislator concerned must be released for the duration of the session. National Assembly members also enjoy legal immunity for statements made in that forum. Greater freedom of the media and independence of the courts, combined with the power of the opposition parties in the legislature, gave greater substance to this immunity during the first two years of the Sixth Republic than under the preceding government, when prosecutors and the courts did not honor such immunity.
The position of the National Assembly in the Constitution is much stronger than it had been under the Fifth Republic (see table 9, Appendix). The annual session of the National Assembly was extended to 100 days. Extraordinary sessions of thirty days each might be called by as little as one-quarter of the membership (versus one-third in the 1980 constitution); and there was no limit on the number of such sessions that could be called each year. The power to investigate state affairs also was strengthened. The National Assembly now held the power to remove the prime minister or a cabinet minister at any time, rather than having to wait a year following appointment, as had been the case before. The consent of the National Assembly was required for the appointment of all Supreme Court justices, not just the chief justice. The National Assembly performed a tie-breaking function in presidential elections and was required to approve or to disapprove presidential emergency measures before they took effect, time permitting. Failure to obtain National Assembly approval would void the emergency measures.
Data as of June 1990