[EDITORIALS]No courage at the Assembly

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[EDITORIALS]No courage at the Assembly

The National Assembly should be criticized again for its failure to ratify the Free Trade Agreement between Korea and Chile yesterday. It has been half a year since the government proposed the ratification, but the Assembly is more worried about the wrath of the farmers. We wonder whether we need such a legislature.
It is absurd for lawmakers from farm districts to occupy the Assembly’s platform and stop the passage of the bill by force. Where did those lawmakers, who oppose without offering alternatives, come from? The FTA ratification is an issue that publicizes Korea’s will to liberalize trade with the world. Opening markets is not an option but a must for a nation that generates about 70 percent of its gross national income through international trade.
Lawmakers from farm districts must be aware that the ratification is necessary. If they opposed the bill out of a desperate wish not to lose votes in the next legislative elections, they ignored their duty. “Lawmakers should conduct their work considering national interests first,” is specified in Article 46 of the Constitution.
The administration cannot escape criticism either. When farmers’ associations strongly resisted the bill, it only reacted passively by churning out policies for farmers that will cost 186 trillion won ($156 billion) over 10 years. It has never tried to convince the farmers, and that is why it has lost the confidence of farmers.
It was a good move by President Roh Moo-hyun, accepting requests by the Grand National Party and the Assembly, to meet and talk with representatives from farmers’ associations and to visit the Assembly to ask for ratification, even though that move came belatedly. It is the chief executive’s responsibility to explain his administration’s policies and ask for cooperation with those policies. If he had acted a little earlier, then leaders of all the political parties would have had more time to persuade lawmakers who were opposed to the bill to vote for it and the agreement might have been ratified yesterday.
A special session of the Assembly will open next month. Until then, the administration, the Assembly, and party leaders should discuss the issue and make a decision. It is already too late, and we have no time to hesitate.
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