Posted June. 19, 2013 07:06,
A drive has begun in earnest to reduce privileges enjoyed by lawmakers. The parliamentary special committee on political reform held on Tuesday a general meeting and adopted a position statement that urges early enactment of a "political reform bill," which calls for a ban on lawmakers from taking additional job, and toughened punishment for violence at the National Assembly, and submitted the statement to the related standing committees, including the Steering Committee and the Security and Government Administration Committee. Ruling Saenuri Party Chairman Hwang Woo-yea and main opposition Democratic Party Chairman Kim Han-ghil also agreed to deliberate the bill to reduce lawmakers special privileges as the top priority during the extra parliamentary session in June at their breakfast meeting on the day.
Notably, the special committee on political reform urged the passage of the bill to amend the National Assembly Act, which bans lawmakers from having another job and engaging in profit-making activities, and a bill to revise the Education Civil Servant Act. Notably, the committee has decided to ensure that college professors resign their posts before starting their term as lawmakers. However, the committee has decided to hold further discussion on whether to allow lawmakers dual appointment as prime minister or ministers or not due to conflicting views within the committee. Lawmakers are prohibited in principle from engaging activities to make profit during their term. However, as an exception, the committee decided to enable the National Assembly Speaker to allow lawmakers to assume honorary positions aimed at achieving public interest, including goodwill ambassadors, or engage in rental business using their personal wealth, which would not hamper their role as lawmaker, by referring to opinion from the Ethical Review and Advisory Committee.
The committee also proposed a bill to revise the National Assembly regarding prevention of violence in parliament and a bill to amend the Civil Servant Election Act. The bill suggests that those who commit violent acts to obstruct meetings in parliament face heavier punishment than penalty handed for violence under the Criminal Act, and obliges the National Assembly Speaker to file legal compliant for acts of violence in the Assembly. It thus intends to create a legal ground, which could deprive a lawmaker of his or her parliamentary seat even when engaging in acts of violence just once. The committee has decided to require the deprivation of parliamentary seat and restriction of the right to be elected for five to 10 years even when he or she is found guilty of a crime that entails a fine of 5 million won (4,400 U.S. dollars) or more due to obstruction of meetings.
The committee also proposed that Korea revoke from the 19th National Assembly the parliamentarian pension (subsidies for senior members of the Parliamentarian Society) of 1.2 million won a month, which has been paid to former lawmakers aged 65 or older, by revising the Act on Promotion of the Parliamentary Society. Irrespective of the number of terms, the proposed measure is aimed at preventing lawmakers since the 19th National Assembly from receiving the pension. Among the former lawmakers, the committee also decided to exclude from ex-lawmakers entitled to the pension those who serve lawmaker for less than a year, those who earn income more than the average income of workers in urban areas, and those who lose their parliamentary seat due to conviction for crimes. Additionally, it proposed revision to the Parliamentary Confirmation Hearing Act to include as posts subject to confirmation hearings the minister of Government Policy Coordination, head of the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission, and heads of administrative agencies and offices.
However, the position statement by the special committee is not legally binding, and some lawmakers are reportedly protesting the provision banning their double appointment as college professors. As such, the bill will likely face a bumpy road ahead in the course of deliberation at the standing committees. We will officially convey to respective standing committees the committees view that the provisions in the position statement should be approved by the National Assembly in June without fail, said Kim Jin-pyo, chairman of the special committee on political reform.