|The 19th National Assembly, which began its official term on May 30, was supposed to open for business by June 5. Yet the 300 elected lawmakers hadn’t even taken their oaths of office Wednesday, 15 days after the legal deadline, because rival parties remain locked in a standoff over who should control key parliamentary committees and other issues.
This is the seventh Assembly in a row that has failed to observe its official opening date, but most Koreans don’t even seem to care much about the legislators’ lawbreaking habits anymore. It’s frustrating to think how long this nation should allow this egregious dereliction of duty to continue.
So it came as a surprise when 150 lawmakers of the ruling Saenuri Party decided Tuesday to give up their first monthly paychecks amounting to nearly $10,000 each, by putting their “no-work, no-pay” campaign pledge into action. The conservative governing party will return about $1.5 million to state coffers or donate it to public bodies. Should voters praise them for this unprecedented move in parliamentary history? Perhaps, but perhaps not.
There are two major stumbling blocks in the way to opening formal business _ the chairmanship of the Legislation-Judiciary Committee for parliamentary hearings on a prolonged walkout by broadcast journalists and illegal surveillance operations on private citizens conducted by government officials, two highly controversial issues caused by the misrule of the Lee Myung-bak administration. The ruling party should take greater responsibility for the stalemate on both issues, which also are closely related to the upcoming presidential election on December19.
It is not hard to understand why the ruling party is trying to take the helm of this particular panel that has traditionally been occupied by members of the main opposition parties _ it is crucial for turning campaign promises into action in this year of key elections. Also easy to identify is the reason the Saenuri Party is refusing to bring the two biggest social issues to the Assembly despite popular wishes. Various polls show 75 percent of voters support opposition calls for holding parliamentary hearings on these issues, into which the prosecution could not or did not investigate sufficiently.
All this explains why many voters agree with the Democratic Untied Party’s jeering at the paycheck return as another “political show.” Forgoing a month’s salary can never be an excuse for parliamentary paralysis.
The main opposition party, of course, is not free from blame for putting partisan interests ahead of urgent national issues, such as a swift decision on Supreme Court justice nominees and discussion of measures to cushion the impact of the eurozone fiscal crisis. Yet few can deny the majority party holds the key to breaking the legislature’s impasse, as has been the case in the past. This is no time to camouflage its election-year politics by earnestly appearing to save taxpayers’ money. Smooth operation of the parliament, preferably through concession and compromise, is one of the most important qualifications of the governing party.
During April’s parliamentary elections, the major parties vowed to conduct politics for the people instead of the politicians themselves. What they are doing now is exactly the opposite.
Without a doubt the ball is now in the Saenuri Party’s court.
6월 21일 (목) The Korea Times 사설