Three Lawmakers Stage Refreshing Revolt

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Three Lawmakers Stage Refreshing Revolt

The unexpected actions of three newly elected lawmakers of the Millennium Democratic Party (MDP) have sent shockwaves through Korea’s political circles. Defying the MDP leadership's ban on traveling abroad, they suddenly departed, forcing the ruling party to give up on the unilateral National Assembly session, convened with the cooperation of the United Liberal Democrats (ULD). This means that the MDP's control of the National Assembly with the bare minimum number of lawmakers has been confronted by a realistic limitation. At the same time, we would like to interpret the incident as an act of revolt against the domination of politics by party lines which completely ignore individual opinions, and the result of the three lawmakers' self-reflection on the current lawlessness in the National Assembly. It is hard to forecast how their move will eventually be judged, but we hope that it will contribute to pulling the National Assembly out of its current immature and anti-parliamentary state.

Some people in the MDP believe that personal discontent played a big part in the three's revolt. Others level the criticism that they were motivated more by their desire to travel than by their will to protest against the party leadership. It would have been better if their action left no room for such speculations. Nevertheless, upsetting the management of parliament by going against the party line is certainly a brave action in the Korean political climate, often said to be typified by the "one-person party" or "boss politics." The three made public the reasons for their disobedience: the belief that it is no longer desirable to open a unilateral National Assembly session in the face of fierce resistance from the opposition, and the understanding that it would be no longer possible to go on with the unilateral management of the National Assembly. Their stand is fair and reasonable enough, and also in agreement with public opinion.

Having raised voters' expectations at the time of its launch, what has the 16th National Assembly presented so far? The Korean public is too exhausted to be disappointed. As if the reappearance of bad old habits -- the railroading of bills, fist fighting, taking the speaker and vice speakers hostage -- were not bad enough, one meeting even danced to the tune of the ULD leader's golf schedule. There has been no sign of discussion and policy competition. The ULD made a nuisance of itself by demanding the revision of the law so that it could form a negotiation body, the ruling party was twisted around the ULD's little finger, and the opposition seemed to be dead set on opposing everything. It is as if both the ruling party and the opposition have abandoned the principles of parliamentarism. While crying for political reform, the National Assembly proved itself to be the problem, a stumbling block for reforms in other areas, not to mention in the political sphere. This is the current status of the National Assembly.

The small revolt by the three lawmakers strikes us as a refreshing gesture which amounts to them thumbing their noses at the inadequacy of the legislature. We hope that their gesture will lead to a protest against the politics of obedience and a recovery of the self-esteem of lawmakers. Pro-reform representatives in their 30s have continuously promised that they would act according to their beliefs, and we had high hopes for them. However, their pledges have not been translated into actions yet. We would like to believe they, too, are doing a lot of thinking and hope that a second and a third revolt will soon follow.

The leaderships of the ruling party and the opposition should not be obsessed with vulgar calculations of who gained and who lost over the three representatives' action. Rather, they should establish a new paradigm for the management of the National Assembly. The times call for politics based on dialogue and negotiation, the basic norms of parliamentary practice.

by No Jai-hyon

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