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Chained Assembly

Posted December. 23, 2009 14:06,   


Three photos were prominently shown in Korean morning newspapers Tuesday. Two of them were taken at the Gyeonggi Province Council and the Seongnam City Council. The first photo shows members of the provincial assembly from both the ruling Grand National Party and the main opposition Democratic Party scuffling over the passage of a budget bill. The second shows opposition council members of Seongnam locking the gate of the main assembly hall with chains to prevent the introduction of a bill consolidating the southern Seoul suburbs of Seongnam, Hanam and Gwangju into one city. The third portrays Shim Jae-chul, chairman of the National Assembly’s Special Committee on Budget and Accounts, being pushed away from his seat by Democratic Party lawmakers who occupied the committee’s conference room. Violence and disgraceful behavior took place at all levels of the legislative sector.

Five council members from ruling and opposition parties left for Japan for a seven-day visit Tuesday. After agreeing to postpone the city consolidation bill to late January next year, they flew to Japan. On the surface, the purpose of their trip is to inspect Japan’s welfare facilities for the elderly and sewage disposal systems. The trip, however, cost three million won (2,540 U.S. dollars) for each council member since it includes a visit to a hot spring. Eleven members of the Gyeonggi provincial council also headed for Japan the same day. They will reportedly visit Mount Fuji National Park. No wonder that the behavior of city and provincial assembly members is the same as that of National Assembly members. It seems the former has learned from the latter violence and sightseeing tours on the taxpayers’ dime.

Over the past two years, the Democratic Party has frequently resorted to violence to get what it wants. Through the 16th National Assembly, the party’s lawmakers had engaged in light physical brawls and erected barricades with chairs. Chains were used in the 17th National Assembly in 2007 by the then main opposition Grand National Party. In the 18th Assembly, Democratic Party lawmakers mobilized hammers and power saws. Violence in parliament has grown more serious over time.

The National Assembly has an educational responsibility as well as moral responsibility to set an example for provincial and municipal councils. Expecting such councils to behave properly while the National Assembly does not is ludicrous. The duty of lawmakers is to educate the people on the principle of democracy. So they should be held accountable for the violence they inflict in parliament.

Editorial Writer Yook Jeong-soo (sooya@donga.com)