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[Opinion] Aides to Lawmakers

Posted November. 01, 2008 03:02,   


A lawmaker is entitled to six aides comprising two from tier-four officials and one each from tiers five, six, seven and nine officials. Usually those in tier four are dubbed aides; one takes charge of political affairs and the other political policy. Lawmaker aides are often selected through private connections, Web advertisements or a recommendation from the party the representative belongs to. Previous lawmakers can introduce their aides to newly elected ones. In the past, certain politicians hired their wives or children as aides. The lowest monthly spending per legislator on aides accounts for 23 million won. In other words, the government has sumptuously supported their parliamentary activities with tax money.

Nonetheless, lawmakers seem unsatisfied with the status of their aides. On the motion of ruling Grand National Party lawmaker Kim Jae-kyeong, the National Assembly is trying to pass a revision aimed at raising the ranking of aides from tier four to tier three and increase the staff pool. The new revision is designed to raise productivity at government bureaus and parliament and strengthen policy assistance. Their imprudent and ignorant attitudes in the face of the economic crisis are mind-numbing, to say nothing of their absurd pretext.

Do lawmakers really need that many aides? Politicians have always sought to increase their aide pool and raise their official ranks. It is difficult to restrain a lawmaker from hiring more aides given that the lawmaker incurs no personal cost. In addition to the aides, two intern aides are hired at government expense. Moreover, the National Assembly Research Service was formed to help lawmakers with parliamentary activities. Lawmakers, however, still repeat the same mantra. Do they really think they can create a more advanced parliament overnight if they get more aides?

Public soliciting for aides often sees a high competition rate of 100-1, with the main criteria being advanced degrees. The aide profession is growing more popular since aides have a relatively small workload while receiving good treatment. Unlike in other countries, they enjoy privileged government positions and can pursue their own political careers based on their experience. In contrast, U.S. congressmen receive government assistance for their activities and hire aides within their budget. Shouldn’t Korea consider a change in the system instead of beefing it up? One thing lawmakers should keep in mind is that they should focus on upgrading their own capacity instead of resorting to hiring more aides.

Editorial Writer Lee Jin-nyong (jinnyong@donga.com)