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[Editorial] Campaign Vs. Corrupt Lawmakers

Posted January. 03, 2009 06:17,   


In his New Year’s address yesterday, President Lee Myung-bak said if the National Assembly cooperates, he can do his best to revive the economy. Some might question that parliament is to blame for the poor economic situation. No one can deny, however, that the crippled National Assembly is standing in the way of overcoming the financial crisis. Even if the ruling Grand National Party and the main opposition Democratic Party reach a consensus over contentious bills, the public is simply sick and tired of their flip-flops and turning a blind eyes to the suffering of the people.

If parliament postpones controversial bills to the next session, the ruling and opposition parties will barely budge from their demands and keep parliament paralyzed. As their bipartisan wrangling draws public outcry, they will probably make a reluctant gesture for peace to reach a compromise. Hwang Sang-min, a psychology professor at Yonsei University, said, “Lawmakers will never change their behavior until they’ve used their political brinkmanship to the fullest extent. Right now, there seems to be no sign of plausible solutions.” How can lawmakers, who formulate law, feel free to cause violence and stage sit-in protests at the legislature without conscience? Given that parliament itself is swayed by chaos and violence, urgent calls for restoring order and principles are falling on deaf ears and no scrupulous lawmakers with a sense of law and order are taking responsibility.

Dialogue and compromise are the basic factors in democratic politics. Debating over bills and budgets and competing for public agreement between the ruling and opposition parties are recommendable. If they fail to reach a compromise, however, they should accept the result according to the principle of majority rule, a key point of representative democracy and also the reason people vote. If the principles are not kept and fail to function, the voting system is useless.

Ignoring such principles, the main opposition party under the pretext of “respecting the minority” has rejected the passage of pending bills without its consent. How can the public rely on parliament when the opposition party, which holds just 28 percent of seats, is trying to control the legislature and bullying the ruling party?

Though numerous challenges remain in Korean politics, the country has overcome most old habits and bad practices, such as purchasing a parliamentary seat. Korea has taken the hard way to reform over many decades. Now is the time to face the most chronic problem in Korean politics: removing and eliminating illegal and undemocratic practices of lawmakers. The National Assembly cannot be trusted to resolve this issue. The public should stand up for the task. The Dong-A Ilbo suggests this proposal as the national task for 2009.

The methods are plenty. One of the most fearful weapons of choice is to utilize public opinion. Employing methods such as the Web, citizens should make their voices heard to the law-breaking lawmakers. The elites and intellectuals should also speak up. Civic groups should also take part instead of campaigning against corrupt politicians. Another way is to press politicians to introduce a national recall system for lawmakers. The most powerful way to get the message across, however, is voting. The public should keep a watchful eye over politicians’ behavior in the National Assembly to make the right choices in the next general elections.