Farcical legislationA recent farce at the National Assembly suggests there are fundamental problems in the legislature. On July 3, the final day of the National Assembly’s most recent special session, a bill aiding those who were forcibly called into overseas service during the Pacific War and their families was passed. One hundred and ten were in favor, 20 were against and 67 abstained.
The original bill, which the Government Administration and Home Affairs Committee came up with after consultation with the Government Administration Ministry, said the government would provide each victim’s family with 20 million won ($21,720) in state compensation. But the bill passed last Tuesday included additional state compensation of 5 million won to each surviving victim. The additional cost for this amounts to 200 billion won. During discussions within the National Assembly Standing Committee, some argued that paying 5 million won in compensation would mean that the victims of other post-liberation wars were not being treated equally. Thus the idea was withdrawn.
But on the very date of the vote at the plenary session, Chang Bok-sim, an Uri Party lawmaker who doesn’t even belong to the administration committee, proposed a bill containing the 5 million won compensation idea. And it was passed. Bills with unexpected revisions are usually rejected. But on this bill, no one raised a voice in dissent. There were only two assent discussions before a vote and the bill was passed with a large margin in favor.
The Uri Party was the governing party until a few months ago. It should have thoroughly considered whether the revised bill reflected national finances and the need for legislation to obey principles of universality. If not, it should have prevented the legislation. It seems that the lawmakers either didn’t know what the bill was really about, or intentionally didn’t move against it because they were too conscious of the votes for the upcoming presidential and general elections.
So what’s the use of having long public hearings and debates in the Standing Committee if the National Assembly can pass such a bill so abruptly? Such an important bill should not be passed without deliberation. It is like a 200-billion-won tax bill was issued to the Korean people without notice. The legislative body has always argued the administration should respect the authority of the National Assembly. But in this case it gave up its authority without a whimper. Such an absurd way of passing bills seems like something out of elementary school.