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National Assembly failing to do its part

Posted December. 03, 2022 07:23,   

Updated December. 03, 2022 07:23


The National Assembly's budget bill for the next year failed to meet the legal deadline. The legal deadline set by the Constitution was Friday. Still, the ruling and opposition parties are confronting each other over budget cuts and increases, saying, “It’s the pro-Yoon Suk-yeol budget” and “It’s the pro-Lee Jae-myung budget.” In addition, the conflict between the two parties over the proposed dismissal of Public Administration and Security Minister Lee Sang-min is exacerbating this budget issue. National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin-pyo announced a plenary session to be held next Thursday and Friday, saying that the budget bill will be processed by next Friday, the end of the regular session. Still, it is unclear whether the ruling and opposition parties will reach an agreement.

Missing the budget deadline is a chronic problem in Korea’s National Assembly. With the revision of the National Assembly Act in 2014, if the review of the budget bill is not completed by the end of November, the original government bill is automatically referred to the plenary session. However, even after that, resolutions of the plenary session within the statutory deadline may be produced only twice. The tardiness of the budget bill has become an annual event.

Even if the budget bill is processed late, there will be no problem if it is properly reviewed, but the reality is quite the opposite. Knowing that it will be automatically referred, the practice of skipping the review at the Preliminary Committee level and quickly reaching an agreement through a behind-the-scenes review in the sub-subcommittee of the Preliminary Committee, in which only a small number of members from the ruling and opposition parties participate, has become an all-too-familiar occurrence. The sub-subcommittee is a consultative body between the ruling and opposition parties that has no legal bearing and does not leave any stenographic records. This year, it is obvious that lawmakers’ so-called pork barrel legislation to bring money to localized projects will be fierce, even though they pretend to argue on the surface.

Reviewing and voting on budget bills is the biggest responsibility of the National Assembly. Nevertheless, it has become commonplace for lawmakers to take for granted a blind review rather than an open review by the Preliminary Committee, with individual lawmakers focusing only on pork barrel spending and failing to meet the statutory deadline. It is abhorrent to display such an irresponsible practice with a budget of over 600 trillion won.

The ruling and opposition parties are busy pointing fingers, saying, “We have no choice but to consider organizing a quasi-budget” and “It is possible to process our own amendments alone.” However, since the quasi-budget is provisionally executed in accordance with the previous year’s budget, it is impossible to execute the budget for new projects. It is similar to a federal government shutdown in the United States. There is no precedent for a quasi-budget at the central government level in our constitutional history, and it has a great impact on national livelihood.

The state at the end of this year is full of chaos and confusion, with handling the budget bill, the potential dismissal of Minister Lee, and the government investigation into the Itaewon incident. In such a complex situation, we must first try to address the big issues one by one. The top priority is the processing of budget proposals. To boost the economy and restore people's livelihood, a revised budget bill based on an agreement between the ruling and opposition parties must be prepared before the regular session of the National Assembly begins.