[EDITORIALS]Good first step in party reformIt is good to hear that major political parties have decided to sell their party headquarters buildings and move into the National Assembly building.
Choe Byung-yul, chairman of the Grand National Party, joined by his counterpart Chung Dong-young of Our Open Party, told Park Kwan-young, the Assembly’s speaker, of their plans. Chough Soon-hyung, chairman of the Millennium Democratic Party, was not present at the meeting, but he embraced the idea, which had originally been the brainchild of his party.
For a change, the opposition and the governing parties have struck an agreement. The move would seem not to be too difficult because the main National Assembly building and the annex building for the legislators already have separate space for the parties. A library now under construction will also have space for the political parties.
Grand headquarters buildings have been a burden on the parties and Korean politics as well. It is one of the major reasons that Korean politics have been turned into a machinery powered by massive amounts of cash. Parties spend hundreds of millions of won per month to maintain those quarters. Not only have political parties been using government funds to maintain them, but they have also used illegal business donations. Large central party organizations are a relic from the days when political parties mobilized the working class; it is no longer in tune with what political parties of the 21st century should be like.
According to documents filed with the National Election Commission, major political parties spend about 100 billion won ($85 million) per year, with the amount increasing in an election year. And they fail miserably in terms of efficiency.
The headquarters of political parties are holdovers from the Republican Party days that spanned the 1960s, when the party was a get-out-the-vote machine to give an authoritarian regime a patina of legitimacy. It would not be an exaggeration to say that except during elections, political parties and their staffers have little to do. Parties have an opportunity to turn into policy-oriented, small and efficient parties. Parties need to downsize and take other measures for a rebirth.