[EDITORIALS]Shirking responsibilityThe National Human Rights Commission has released a statement opposing the government’s plan to dispatch noncombat troops to the Iraq War. The governing Millennium Democratic Party said it would allow its lawmakers to vote freely on the issue, without party discipline. Both attitudes are disappointing. Human rights are important; so is voting freely. But the confusion coming from government organs is a serious problem, and so is the ruling party’s indifferent attitude. Government confusion aggravates the division in public opinion about sending the Korean troops. We now doubt this administration’s capabilities.
The National Human Rights Commission is an independent organ, but it is still a state-run body. If the government decides to dispatch its troops, the commission must agree. If there are differing opinions, they should be coordinated internally. When one organ supports the dispatch while another disagrees, how can this be called a government? The commission pronounces on rights issues, but it is still a constituent of the Republic of Korea. It is independent, but it does not stand above the president, who speaks for our country. The commission seems to confuse itself with a United Nations body. It is limited to dealing with domestic rights issues. Military assistance should be decided by careful calculation of diplomatic benefits and national security. For the commission to reject the president’s decision was undeniably wrong.
The ruling party, which is supposed to support the government on the dispatch of the troops, also acted lamentably. First it said it would encourage its lawmakers to vote for the bill, then it said MDP representatives may vote freely. It is busy avoiding blame. The Grand National Party, too, said the dispatch should come as soon as possible, but it stepped back, saying it was not in a position to lead a move that risked criticism. That is an irresponsible attitude for a majority party.
It is natural that lawmakers are sensitive to public opinion. But more important is to make the right decision at the right time for the sake of our nation’s future. But both parties fawn upon the voters, more concerned for next year’s general election.
President Roh Moo-hyun is ultimately responsible for all confusion. Talking to the two parties’ floor leaders, he said the measure lacks justification, giving the impression that he was reluctant to send the troops. What will we gain diplomatically through unwilling participation? How will Mr. Roh mend the split public opinion? We urge him to act more aggressively to send the troops promptly.