Assembly becomes a bad jokeThe South Korean National Assembly has become the laughingstock of the world. To all appearances, we re an uncivilized nation that gets into shoving matches because it has no idea what democracy and majority rule are all about. A program on the U.S. station NBC aired clips of our lawmakers scuffles and said they were straight out of the redneck animated series King of the Hill. The BBC, The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have all covered South Korean politicians engaging in fistfights.
The central cause of this problem is neglect of the democratic process. Legislators were blocked from entering the Assembly. Outside organizations broke into the National Assembly and interfered with lawmakers legislative activities.
This hasn t happened since violent gangs intimidated their way through the opposition during the Syngman Rhee administration in the mid-20th century. It wasn t even seen during the military governments in the 1970s and 80s. Legislators who were present were physically impeded from voting on bills. In light of this disgrace, for anyone to question the legality of the bills passage is ludicrous.
Democratic Party members say they will step down from their legislative seats and fight from outside the Assembly. The National Assembly speaker should agree.
But the DP members are threatening to quit fully knowing Speaker Kim Hyung-o will not accept their resignations. Even within the party, there are opposing voices that urge against any political circus. And just what kind of democracy does the DP plan to protect outside the National Assembly?
Is the party trying to change the law so that the minority rules?
The Grand National Party plans to form a task force on the National Assembly to study ways to prevent the disruption of the legislature. But no task force can guarantee that.
The brawl at the National Assembly wasn t due to the lack of a system. Answers can be easily found in the foreign media s coverage. In its editorial yesterday, the Wall Street Journal wrote that Korea s focus on political consensus has made it difficult for the ruling party to implement its platform over Democratic objections. To outsiders, majority rule is the logical choice. This time, consensus was emphasized more than was necessary.
At the root of democracy is majority rule. Respecting consensus is merely a noble trait of Korean politics that has been added. If we can make good use of it, we can compensate for flaws in parliamentary democracy. But we should never forget the basics and become the butt of jokes around the globe.