Choo’s unfair tacticsRegardless of the issue at hand, key legislation that is submitted to the National Assembly should be discussed at a standing committee.
Through this process, political parties have a chance to reach a compromise on the legislation and incorporate the opinions of various interest groups and experts.
The law governing non-regular workers was created through these steps while the Uri Party - the predecessor of Democratic Party - was in the driver’s seat.
But the Democratic Party’s Choo Mi-ae, who heads the National Assembly’s Environment and Labor Committee, hasn’t opened a session to discuss a proposed revision of the non-regular workers’ law. Choo maintains that even if three major political parties agree to the changes, she will not discuss the possibility of another two-year grace period for upgrading the status of non-regular workers without an agreement between those workers and the labor community.
Although the nation’s two major umbrella labor unions don’t share the same view as non-regular employees on the issue, Choo regards their agreement on any revisions essential.
According to National Assembly law, only the head of the standing committee has the right to place legislation on the agenda for discussion. While officials from other parties are given an opportunity to weigh in on the agenda, the committee head reserves the right to make the final call. Choo has used this power to keep the door locked.
The National Assembly speaker may introduce the bill directly, but if the speaker is caught up in politics, the chances of passing the bill become even more remote.
Choo’s idea of first getting a “social agreement” isn’t in line with the spirit of the National Assembly.
In representative democracy, lawmakers are selected to act as arbitrators when parties with conflicting interests are unable to reach a compromise. A social agreement would bring all sorts of interest groups into the picture and bog down the process.
By that logic, the media reform law would require consent from the media; laws on assembly and demonstration from activists; education laws from schools and parents; national defense laws from troops; and taxation laws from taxpayers.
The Democratic Party has physically prevented the beginning of discussions on revisions to media-related laws. And now that the bills have finally made it onto the agenda, the DP is trying to conduct surveys. If they wanted to rely on polls or social agreements, then for whom does representative democracy exist? Should we select legislators based on polls or only with the consent of voter representatives?
Owing to a standing committee head who has no idea how parliamentary democracy works, discussions on the revisions to the non-regular workers law have been delayed. It’s difficult to measure how much damage that has caused. We need to consider the implementation of a new institutional device to prevent a standing committee head from refusing to put important bills on the table.