Lawmaker luxuriesLawmakers who take overseas trips, calling them parliamentary diplomacy, reportedly receive about $1,000 each for personal spending in addition to their airfare, lodging and operational expenses.
These special expenses are provided by the speaker of the National Assembly.
The secretariat of the Assembly said the money is also given to the president and other high-ranking officials of the government.
“It is necessary for a legislator’s diplomatic activity,” the secretariat said.
That explanation, however, is not very convincing.
Parliamentary diplomacy, when it occurs at the right time and in the right place, contributes to the national interest.
However, this diplomatic activity must be efficient and humble, taking into account the country’s budget and in fairness to the private sector.
Furthermore, while lawmakers are spending tax money for their trips, they must consider the fact that all of society is currently trying to share the burdens of the economic crisis.
Under the government’s guidelines for spending, a lawmaker receives minister-level treatment on their trips.
They fly first class and receive up to $300 for lodging per day. In addition, they are allowed to host expenses-paid luncheons and dinners.
Due to skyrocketing foreign exchange rates, lawmakers are often flying business class these days, but they aren’t cutting back in other respects.
Lawmakers are often assisted by Korean diplomatic missions or other organizations overseas, so they often don’t spend the money given to them for “special activities.” Thus, the money is often criticized as an official perk.
The National Assembly has already faced fierce criticism for lawmakers’ melees, chaotic operations and failure to even meet a quorum for a voting session. The legislature has become a sanctuary from the nation’s hardships.
The private sector is seeing wage cuts, job sharing and even layoffs, but lawmakers’ job security is guaranteed by the Constitution.
If they continue to waste tax money instead of sharing the people’s pain, they are voluntarily surrendering their qualification to lead our society.
The controversy over these perks speaks to the National Assembly’s moral deficiency.