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[Editorial] Lawmakers Ignoring the People’s Suffering

Posted December. 30, 2008 03:14,   


Traditional specialty produce and food including octopuses, squid, ripe persimmon, rice cake and tangerines are reportedly arriving at the main hall of the National Assembly, where some 50 members of the main opposition Democratic Party are staging a sit-in protest. The food was sent by lawmakers with constituencies in provincial regions or party members seeking to support their protest. The protesting lawmakers get lunchboxes delivered to them. Even if they remain on strike for 15 days, they will get paid without fail. If the Democratic Party members blindly enjoy a feast and forget about the pain and suffering of the jobless, who have been forced to the streets due to corporate restructuring, they will soon face the anger and backlash from the public.

Across the country, a growing number of the self-employed are shutting down their businesses. The self-employed are the first to suffer from the economic crisis. Amid spreading fears over the deflation of asset values and their future, consumers are tightening their purse strings en masse. Through November, the number of new restaurants registered with the Korea Restaurant Association was 59,834, but the number of those that shut down or suspended business was 253,935. This suggests that the number of restaurants going under is four times that of those being set up. Another report says the number of the self-employed will fall below six million for the first time in eight years.

Also serious is the domino-like collapse of small- and medium-size enterprises and fairly large established companies. The number of companies that went belly up was 211 in October alone, up 50 percent from 140 in September. The collapse of smaller companies, which account for more than 80 percent of jobs, directly results in a spike in the number of jobless. The number of people who are effectively unemployed due to dismissal or failure to land jobs is 2.75 million, or more than 10 percent of the workforce. Jobseekers are scrambling to find opportunities at all workplaces, but few are hiring.

If the self-employed shut down and smaller companies go bankrupt, people who rely on them for their livelihoods will fall into an abyss. The middle class will decline to the working class, while the working class will fall to the ranks of the extreme poor. The demise of the middle and the working classes could dismantle families and create social unrest. The main opposition Democratic Party, which has always called itself a “party of the working class,” is crushing bills aimed to revive the economy at standing parliamentary committees and the main hall of the National Assembly. This is truly an act of self-contradiction.

National Assembly Speaker Kim Hyong-o proposed that the Assembly separately deliberate on bills on the people’s livelihood. Though not the best option, the proposal is apparently a desperate countermeasure aimed at restoring the Assembly and helping the people. If the Democratic Party fails to recognize the anger and despair of the people and listens just to a minority who sends food to their protest sites, the party will become truly hopeless. Rather than blaming the opposition, the ruling Grand National Party must also use political wisdom in passing bills aimed to support the people’s livelihood and reviving the economy first.