[Viewpoint] A legislature divided

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[Viewpoint] A legislature divided

After doing nothing during the two-year grace period of the non-regular worker legislation, the National Assembly failed to strike a deal before the law took effect and the fear of mass layoffs has become a reality.

At the Environment and Labor Committee, only Grand National lawmakers attended the meeting and a series of bills including the proposed revision on the non-regular workers statute were unilaterally introduced. The chairwoman of the committee then fiercely condemned the Grand National Party, ridiculing the GNP for attending the National Assembly.

Small political parties are also split between the proposals based on political calculations from the Democrats or Grand Nationals.

This is what s going on in the National Assembly while non-regular workers are being fired. Lawmakers failed to agree on even a proposal to extend the grace period, let alone a revision to the non-regular workers bill, repeating fights and confrontation.

Under the current condition, hope has disappeared and it is likely that the same situation will repeat all over again after the extended grace period, whether it will be six months, a year or 18 months. The lawmakers are fighting fiercely over the delay of the non-regular worker revision, and it is easy to imagine what will happen when the Grand Nationals attempt to pass the media industry reform bills.

The National Assembly s legislative function is now totally paralyzed. Because of the extreme confrontations between ruling and opposition lawmakers, the legislature s operations are often crippled. It is a familiar scene to see hundreds of bills being passed hastily on the last day of the legislative session.

The National Assembly s incompetence has played a key role in prompting people to launch their broadsides, expressing their disappointment and distrust in politics. But it is unprecedented that the political parties failure to strike a deal prompted the mass layoffs of non-regular workers, the underdogs of our society.

Once again, we were left in serious doubt about the National Assembly s basic function to legislate. We gave up a long time ago on the idea of the legislature smoothly mediating social conflicts and establishing laws through negotiation and compromise. Now, we wonder why the legislature even needs to exist. Lawmakers are doing nothing but fighting over legislation directly linked to people s right to survive.

There are many reasons why a defunct legislature has been operating. Many academics point out that lawmakers lack the professionalism and the necessary culture of negotiation. The growing polarization of society has also played a role, and such various factors have been expressed through the uselessness of the legislature.

Then, why have lawmakers, who were selected through elections, failed to resolve the social conflict within the system of the legislature?

This is the time when we have to look back on our lack of attempts to realize the division of power, although the principle has been accepted widely and naturally. Since the times of the ancient monarchy until the establishment of democracy through civic revolution, power was inseparable. The first constitution that divided the inseparable power was the U.S. Constitution. It is the principle that the U.S. federal government rests on.

When the executive and legislative powers were separated, the conflict between the administration and the legislature was predestined. Depending on how to resolve the conflict, the division of power may work smoothly or not.

For the functioning division of power, a strong legislature is a must. Regardless of party affiliation, each lawmaker must be respected and protected within the legislative body. The president needs to persuade lawmakers to push forward a bill and implement a policy.

Opposition lawmakers also need to respect individual motives, rather than the party line. In other words, the division of power can never function properly when lawmakers are used to serving a president or a political party s agenda.

Korea s National Assembly is an example that demonstrates how a legislature functions and how it can make people suffer in a country where the division of power is not properly established.


*The writer is a professor of international relations at Kyung Hee University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Jung Ha-lyong

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