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[Editorial] Stay Firm on Ending Parliamentary Violence

Posted January. 19, 2009 03:04,   


The ruling Grand National Party is under fire for watering down legislation to prevent violence in the National Assembly, which gives the impression that it has lost momentum in making a violence-free parliament. The original draft said lawmakers found guilty of violence in the Assembly will face at least a year in prison and lose their seat at the same time. The revised version, however, includes punishment by fine that could allow violators to stay in office. Parliamentary law stipulates that a lawmaker fined more than five million won (3,700 dollars) loses his or her seat, but the revised version is nonetheless largely watered down from the first draft.

The ruling party said, “The revision was based on the recognition that the special law according to the first draft may be too stringent for advisers, people on duty or non-lawmakers.” This is a flimsy excuse. The main purpose of the law in the first place is to root out violence in the Assembly at whatever cost. The ruling party receded from its original stance to make the legislation lenient to lawmakers, citing protection for advisers and people on duty as an excuse.

Advisers and people on duty by no means can be cleared of blame given the physical clashes that paralyzed the Assembly. They were the ones who carried out orders from their lawmakers and affiliate parties. They were the ones who used sledgehammers to make their way into a parliamentary meeting room and clashed with police, who tried to disperse a sit-in. Though they were not elected to parliament, they were at the forefront in trampling down an institution that represents the people’s will. It is only right that they receive a harsher penalty.

Moreover, lawmakers of the main opposition Democratic Party Moon Hak-jin and Kang Ki-jeong and progressive Democratic Labor Party lawmaker Lee Jeong-hee, all three whom face violence charges, have rejected a criminal investigation, holding up the law to ridicule. The least the ruling party can do is to show a firm commitment in bringing order back to the Assembly. If it backs down in the anti-violence law, protecting the Assembly from violence will be a lost cause. It will also be a long time before parliament is cured of its chronic illness and rightfully serves its role as a venue for public discussion based on the principles of dialogue, compromise and rule by majority.