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[Op-Ed] Lawmakers Looking to Be Ministers

Posted August. 07, 2009 08:19,   


When asked what the best job is, Mr. A, who served lawmaker, Cabinet minister and university president, chose being in parliament without hesitation. This is because once elected, a lawmaker has a secure job for four years with no boss. Oddly enough, such lawmakers try to get signals from the presidential office ahead of a Cabinet reshuffle.

A man who was a ruling party lawmaker under the Kim Young-sam administration said, “My man seems to have lost his political instinct as he is stuck in the presidential office.” He apparently learned that he will not be named a minister.

Another ruling party lawmaker under the Kim Dae-Jung administration took the risk of changing his party affiliation to accept the president’s request to make the ruling coalition partner United New Democratic Party a floor negotiation group. Two months later, the lawmaker’s risk paid off handsomely. Chung Dong-young, Kim Geun-tae and United New Democratic Party Chairman Chung Sye-kyun accepted President Roh Moo-hyun’s offer of Cabinet posts. This clearly shows the relation between lawmakers who use their ministerial positions to run for president and the president’s desire to control the ruling party through Cabinet appointments.

Ruling Grand National Party floor leader Ahn Sang-soo recently said, “We must include three or four party lawmakers on the list of minister candidates. Our party is enraged.” Some in the party say appointing ruling party lawmakers as ministers is appropriate under the principle of responsible politics. There are even recommendation lists for certain posts.

Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with a lawmaker being appointed a minister if he or she is competent. In one sense, a lawmaker can be the right person for a ministerial post, in which communication and political sense are essential. A lawmaker’s top duty, however, is to contribute to parliamentary democracy by doing his or her job: legislation. The ruling party is being criticized for wasting 18 months by failing to collect policy documents or counter nonsensical claims made by the opposition party. The public may find it unseemly when lawmakers who are expected to make legislative achievements in their four-year terms wait to be ministers. Their calls for reform could instead be part of their ulterior motive of gaining a ministerial post.

Editorial Writer Park Seong-won (swpark@donga.com)