[EDITORIALS]Tattling on Truant Lawmakers

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[EDITORIALS]Tattling on Truant Lawmakers

It is absurd that in a discussion of the low attendance rate at National Assembly sessions the Millennium Democratic Party's floor leader went as far as to say that he would report the attendance records to the Blue House. Legislators' neglect of parliamentary duty has indeed reached a serious level. Nevertheless, it is deplorable that the party leaders come up with such an idea as a way to curb absence.

Attending sessions is the most basic activity and duty of a representative. Although one may be absent because of unavoidable external activities or personal matters, the priority should be on attending main sessions or committee meetings. Absence has become so prevalent that some committees see only 30 percent of their members show up for sessions. It was under these circumstances that the ruling party leadership had to threaten to report to the presidential office in order to encourage lawmakers' attendance.

National Assembly officials say that legislators began to think lightly of sessions during the Chun Doo-hwan administration, which reduced the authority and functions of the legislature. The history of changes in the law governing the quorum required to conduct business - from a third to a fourth and in 1997 to a fifth - testifies to an ever-worsening tendency of absence. The chairman of the session was authorized to halt or adjourn a meeting if so many lawmakers left during the session that a quorum was lacking. But the law was amended again last year to allow the chairman in such a case to continue the session. These moves were too easy-going to be seen as realistic to cope with the aggravating problem of lawmakers' absence. No matter how serious the problem is, the idea of checking the attendance of legislators and notifying the result to the Blue House seems to disrespect the authority of lawmakers as a constitutional institution, and treat them as a "rubber stamp" for the administration. Some representatives protested that they were not "elementary school students." Well then, lawmakers should not act like elementary school students. But party leaders should ditch the obsolete idea that they can control lawmakers.
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