Sim Sang-jung, the chairwoman of the Justice Party, argued that the number of seats for South Korean lawmakers should be increased by 10% from the current 300 to 330. Other fringe political parties such as the Party for Democracy and Peace and the New Alternative Party are demanding a rise in the number of seats not to lose their constituencies in the Jeolla provinces, and the Baereunmirae Party has also made the case for a 330-seat assembly system from the earlier phase of this debate. The ruling Democratic Party of Korea desperately needs the cooperation from those opposition parties to pass the prosecution reform bill. Chances are that the parties in question might form an alliance of interest to press ahead of their demand to increase the number of parliamentary seats.
“The increase is an agenda long discussed under the condition of frozen annual allowances for lawmakers,” argued Rep. Sim. However, it was only in April this year that the Justice Party promised to keep the number of lawmakers to 300 when they put the revision on Public Offices Election Law on fast track along with the ruling party, whose gist consists in implementing a quasi-pegging system of proportional representation. And the chairwoman was brazen enough to change her words overnight even before the revised law was submitted for a regular session of the National Assembly.
It is nothing but a chicanery that the Justice Party is citing the frozen sum of allowances as condition to expand the number of parliamentary seats. In South Korea, lawmakers enjoy various types of financial support from the national coffers such as personnel expenses for aides, legislations subsidy, and office operation expenses. The share of allowances is merely about 20%. A 10% rise in the number of lawmakers will naturally put more burden on taxpayers who will have to pay more taxes for government-backed election expenses and political party subsidies. There is also a good chance that the amount of allowance might be increased clandestinely once the seats are secured.
The public resistance to the increase in the number of lawmakers reflects the fact that they are not doing their job well enough. If they can keep the administration in check properly and pay more attention to the lives of ordinary folks, it could lead to some room for consideration. However, the demand that the opposition leaders are currently pushing for is based on political interests rather than the people. The revised law on fast track is designed to cut the number of seats for local constituencies from 253 to 225 to secure more seats for proportional representation. Therefore, the bill will likely face heavy opposition of lawmakers not only from the ruling party but the peace party and the new alternative party. The demand from the Justice Party is a sly attempt to preempt such opposition, and it is also nothing short of an expansion of vested interests aimed at benefiting the selected few.
Revision on the election law is about setting the rules for the general elections next year. However, there is no justice nor fairness in several parties trying to tinker with the law in cahoots to advance their political interests. Few would believe that the incompetence of the current legislature should be ascribed to a want of lawmakers.