As the 21st National Assembly concludes its activities at the year's end, concerns arise over the fate of 52 out of the 53 disciplinary bills for National Assembly members accumulated in the Ethics Special Committee, with only one having undergone processing. Among these 52 cases, three involve serious matters that the National Assembly Ethics Review Advisory Committee has recommended for 'expulsion from assemblymanship.' The individuals facing such measures include Rep. Kim Nam-guk, involved in coin trading; Rep. Yoon Mi-hyang, implicated in embezzling donations from the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan; and Rep. Park Deok-heum, whose family company received orders from the audited organization."
Throughout the four years of the 21st National Assembly, handling disciplinary actions has been unconventional. The Ethics Special Committee convened only nine meetings over this period, resembling more of a symbolic formality than an effective oversight mechanism. Despite actions that would warrant disciplinary measures for an ordinary public official, it highlights the National Assembly's apparent lack of both the ability and the will to hold lawmakers accountable in the eyes of the public. The dismissal of issues that would be deemed unacceptable in a typical company underscores the National Assembly's shortfall in meeting the ethical expectations of the average citizen. Furthermore, the disciplinary action against People Power Party Chairman Kim Ki-hyun, the sole individual referred directly to the plenary session by the Democratic Party for obstructing the Legislative and Judiciary Committee, proved futile as the Constitutional Court accepted a provisional injunction, suspending its effectiveness. Even the singular case resulting in disciplinary action emerged from a partisan unilateral decision.
The recurrence of a hostile symbiotic relationship between the ruling and opposition parties, evident in their pursuit of budget victories, protection of incumbent lawmakers' vested rights, and disregard for disciplinary measures despite their apparent differences, is not new. While both sides vocally pledge to discipline the other and refer cases to the Special Ethics Committee, these commitments often prove short-lived, lasting only as long as they align with the public interest. To ensure collusion between the ruling and opposition parties, the disciplinary plans are intentionally devoid of deadlines for processing. Notably, no disciplinary action was taken during the eight years of the 19th and 20th National Assembly. A recent illustration of this trend is the 30-day suspension of Rep. Kang Yong-seok in 2011 for making sexual harassment remarks.
While the National Assembly consistently shirks its responsibilities, there appears to be a conspicuous absence of politicians willing to shoulder accountability. A notable absence is the lack of politicians making self-reflective statements acknowledging that this state of affairs is unacceptable. The Special Committee on Ethics proposed a measure allowing a respected and impartial external figure to participate in the voting process, but the National Assembly shows no inclination to adopt this suggestion. At the end of last year, a public opinion poll indicated that the National Assembly ranked as the least trustworthy among all national institutions. Even if an assessment were to reveal a deterioration over the past year, the National Assembly remains largely silent on the matter.