South Korean National Assembly: the Role of Committee Staffers as Information Providers and Network Managers in the Scrutiny of Government Law Bills
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
I wish to publish papers using material that is substantially drawn from my thesis.
The aim of this thesis is to investigate the role and impact of the committee staff of the South Korean National Assembly in the scrutiny of government bills. It also explores the factors affecting their role and impact focusing on the scrutiny of government bills. Parliamentary staff globally have not drawn much academic attention with the exception of those in the U.S., and it is difficult to apply the theories and concepts in American studies to staff in the legislatures of other countries due to the peculiarity of legislatures in the U.S. Moreover, previous literature on parliamentary staff has not given much attention to the roles of staff in mediation and negotiation between policy actors. This research sets out the framework consisting of macro-level institutions, network, actors and the interaction between actors, and uses the perspectives of policy network theory and new institutionalism to derive key concepts, in the context of the South Korean National Assembly, on the features of network; the capabilities and orientations of MPs and committee staff members; and historical contexts affecting the evolution of institutions. In order to collect and analyse empirical data, this research conducted qualitative interviews with 38 committee staff members; amendment analysis on 787 amendment opinions in the scrutiny of law bills; and legislative case studies on four cases of the legislative process. The thesis argues that the committee staff provide information and guide the scrutiny; consult with and mediate between policy actors; and play a limited role in setting the items of the subcommittee meetings. Generally speaking, the impact of them is found to be strong, as evidenced through the interview data and amendment analysis. This is because the orientation structures and capabilities of MPs and committee staff members are conducive to MPs’ delegation of detailed scrutiny to committee staff members; staff members’ participation; and MPs’ agreement with them according to the interview data. In addition, political controversy affects the role and impact negatively, but technical complexity affects positively according to the interview data and amendment analysis. These findings are also supported by the legislative case study. The committee staff conducted substantive roles in the scrutiny of uncontroversial bills, but their roles in amending bills were limited to the translation of the agreement between parties in the scrutiny of controversial bills although they specified detailed amendments and conducted scrutiny in the aspects of legal structure and wording in technically complex matters. The contributions of this research are as follows: First of all, it sheds lights on the network managing function of parliamentary staff generally and in Korea in particular in their roles such as consultation and mediation. In addition, it also sheds light on the nature of issue as the factors affecting the role and impact of parliamentary staff differently. Last, but not least, it can be a base of comparative research on the legislative staff through studying non-partisan committee staff. The major limitation of this research is that it does not address whether the findings can be applied to the legislatures of other countries. This limitation is due to the peculiarity of South Korean National Assembly, although it shares some features of the legislative process with those in the U.K. and U.S. But then, this is a major problem with all kinds of comparative social science research and ought not to be an excuse not to engage with these important issues. Thus, the conduct of a comparative research about parliamentary staff of different countries with a consistent framework is suggested as the direction of future studies.
PhD in Politics