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[Editorial] Inexcusable Violence in Parliament

Posted December. 18, 2009 08:59,   


Lawmakers of the main opposition Democratic Party yesterday occupied the chamber of the Special Committee on Budget and Accounts at the National Assembly. They sought to prevent the ruling Grand National Party from unilaterally forming a subpanel on budget readjustment. This unfortunate incident came a year after legislators from the Democratic Party and Democratic Labor Party used hammers and chainsaws to block the ruling party from introducing a motion on ratification of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement. Such violence in the Korean parliament has become the laughingstock of the world, but the legislature has shown no signs of reflection or change. The occupation by opposition lawmakers of the parliamentary budget committee conference room was the first in 16 years.

The subcommittee is in charge of budgetary readjustment reviewed by standing committees. The work will take at least 10 days. It is already very late for the parliamentary plenary session to pass next year’s budget bill after a thorough review. A delay in passage will lead to confusion in budget spending next year. The Democratic Party cites the four-river restoration project as an excuse for its refusal to deliberate on the budget bill. Yet the project’s budget accounts for less than two percent of the overall government budget of 291 trillion won (247 billion U.S. dollars) for next year. It is outrageous to block the budget deliberation process just because the opposition party is against the river project. If the Democratic Party fears damage to itself if the project succeeds, it has no right to exist as a political party.

It is the opposition’s duty, not option, to participate in the budget readjustment subcommittee. If parties believe the budget for the river project needs adjustment, they can discuss it at the subcommittee. If they have anything to say to President Lee Myung-bak, they can do it at any time when the subcommittee is in session. They can also do so when the president holds talks with opposition leaders. The Democratic Party says it is willing to talk but wants to torpedo the river project at any cost, so neither negotiations with the ruling party nor dialogue with the president will prove meaningful.

A fundamental condition of democracy is majority rule. Consideration of the minority is meaningful only if majority rule is guaranteed. The people voted for the administration and the ruling party to run the country. Under no circumstances should opposition parties deviate from democratic rules. They must express their opinions not through violence but through debate and voting. If opposition parties hold sway over parliament through minority rule, what are elections for?

The Korean public is tired of seeing parliamentary deadlock and violence. If a lawmaker refuses to follow the basic rules of parliamentary procedure, he or she should resign immediately.