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Irony of idle lawmakers` cheeky request of pay increase

Posted October. 02, 2014 00:23,   


After a compromise was reached on the negotiations for the proposed special law on the Sewol ferry disaster, Kim Moo-sung, the ruling Saenuri Party`s chairman, and Lee Wan-koo, the party`s floor leader, hugged each other with big smiles on their faces. Kim said he was "relieve that the National Assembly did its job." But the remark was far from what the public felt about lawmakers. The public would not have been happy even if the lawmakers had apologized and repented for not deliberating any bill for five months.

As if to rub salt into the wound, lawmakers are seeking to increase their pays by 3.8 percent for the next year. The Ministry of Planning and Finances has also submitted a bill calling for equalizing the pay increase rate for lawmakers and National Assembly employees with that for public officials. If passed as proposed, each lawmaker will receive 143.2 million won (134,650 U.S. dollars) in annual pay in 2015, up by 5.24 million won (4,927 dollars) from this year.

According to the Center for Free Enterprise, a private think tank, the annual pay for each member of the National Assembly is 5.6 times higher than the country`s per-capital gross domestic product of 24.5 million won (23,037 dollars). The ratio is far higher than in most advanced countries where lawmakers` pays are two to three times greater than per-capita incomes. The ratio is 3.5 to 1 in the United States, 2.8 to 1 in Britain and 2.64 to 1 in France. In Britain, the Parliament does not even provide free parking spaces for its members except for the prime minister and the leader of the opposition party. Lawmakers commute on bicycle or metro. Swedish lawmakers do not get any official vehicles, drivers or assistants but work really hard to the extent that one lawmaker proposes more than 70 bills on annual average. Therefore, many lawmakers voluntarily quit when general elections are just around the corner.

The proposed pay increase will be concluded at a main session after going through the National Assembly`s steering committee and the budget and account committee. In the previous presidential and general elections, both the ruling and opposition parties promised to cut their pays by 30 percent as part of their initiative to curtail lawmakers` privileges. It is time that they have to keep the promise. We urge them to freeze their pays for the next year and voluntarily return their pays for the last five months.

Lee Jung-hyun, a Saenuri lawmaker who returned his Chuseok holiday bonus, wrote on his Facebook page on Wednesday, "What face can we agree to increase our pays?" A dozen other Saenuri lawmakers chimed in, saying that a pay increase would further undermine the public trust in the National Assembly. The ruling and opposition parties should deliberate and pass as soon as possible the "no work, no pay" bill for lawmakers that was proposed by Lee Jin-bok, a Saenuri lawmaker, in July 2012, as a gesture for their atonement.