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[Editorial] Traveling Abroad Despite Parliamentary Debacle

[Editorial] Traveling Abroad Despite Parliamentary Debacle

Posted March. 06, 2009 05:36,   


Ruling and opposition lawmakers are packing their bags for overseas trips amid the recess in the National Assembly. This comes despite mounting criticism that they derailed the legislative timetable of the February extra parliamentary session that ended Tuesday. About 50 legislators will reportedly travel abroad for personal reasons or business for standing committees since the parliamentary session will not resume until next month. Seven ruling Grand National Party lawmakers were out of the country Tuesday when their party struggled with hours of filibustering by the main opposition Democratic Party and failed to pass bills due to lack of legislators. Such behavior has crippled the Assembly since late last year, ignoring public and private sector efforts to revive the sagging economy. Now they are taking advantage of their positions as politicians with tax money, while leaving parliament in a mess. They should remember that their absurd and irresponsible behavior is inviting a public backlash.

The leaders of the two rival parties should be ashamed of their self-praise in the plenary session. Ruling party chairman Park Hee-tae said Wednesday, “I expressed my respect and gratitude to floor leader Hong Joon-pyo and other senior lawmakers for their assistance to finish the session well.” Hong at the party’s supreme council meeting a day earlier said, “As a four-term legislator, I‘ve never seen a plenary session passing all contentious bills.” National Assembly Speaker Kim Hyong-o expressed no dissatisfaction, either, though his willy-nilly behavior over invoking his authority to put disputed bills to a vote increased conflict and confusion.

Democratic Party leader Chung Sye-kyun said, “With strong conviction and will, I did my best in the February parliamentary session.” Fellow party member Chun Jung-bae quoted Strategy and Finance Minister Yoon Jeung-hyun as saying in a lecture that the National Assembly is incapable of passing pending bills because it is gripped by lawlessness. Chun blasted Yoon’s comment and demanded an apology. Though the finance minister’s comments might have sounded unrefined, his criticism conveyed exactly what the people wanted to say to lawmakers. Of bills introduced to the plenary session Tuesday after rival parties agreed to put them to a vote, 14 failed to be voted on due to lack of time. Eleven of them are considered essential to jumpstart the economy.

The Special Act on Balanced National Development, which would reorganize the metropolitan and provincial economic areas nationwide, is one of the crucial yet neglected bills. Failure to pass the bill has left 30 state-run and pilot projects to revitalize provincial economies in limbo despite budget of more than 50 trillion won (31.8 billion U.S. dollars) already earmarked. The delay of a policy on half-price apartments, which the central or regional government or Korea Land Corp. own land while selling apartment units to those who move in, has disappointed many in the working class. By leaving these necessary bills to help the people’s livelihood mired, how dare the lawmakers take overseas trips with the start of the parliamentary session in recess?

They should not wait until the next plenary session is resumed and instead should immediately return to the Assembly to finalize bills to help secure urgently required budget and help economic recovery. If the parliamentary session is resumed right after the prosecution of lawmakers charged with violence and graft, the deliberation of pending bills can proceed in about three weeks. Lawmakers claim to the guardians of law and the National Assembly, and now they should prove it.