[Letters] Immature representatives
As a proud South Korean student studying abroad, I read in embarrassment as yet another scuffle erupted inside the National Assembly. The contenders were not revolutionary students demanding reform, laborers insisting on better working conditions or farmers protesting controversial trade agreements - all of whom have made their marks in the annals of South Korea’s young republic.
Instead, the fighters were South Korea’s elected leaders - the face of our nation’s democracy - erupting into another fracas as the Democratic Party protested the Grand National Party’s plan to form a subcommittee in order to adjust the budget bill for the administration’s four rivers project.
As we all know, this episode is not the first time that the South Korean parliament has been featured in the limelight through its tendency for legislative violence.
In 2004, a frenzied fracas stemmed from the impeachment proceedings against the late President Roh Moo-Hyun.
A couple of years later, South Korea became the subject of note within prestigious news organizations, such as the BBC and Time magazine, when opposition party members, wielding fire extinguishers, a sledgehammer and a chain saw, barged through doors blocked by members of the Grand National Party, to force a vote on South Korea’s controversial free trade agreement with the U.S.
This past summer, our elected leaders broke into a brawl over the passage of the contentious media reform laws. A video of the melee, posted on YouTube, depicted lawmakers pushing each other, climbing over desks and hurtling themselves in utter confusion.
Analysts have speculated that South Korea’s pugnacious parliament is the culmination of the growing pains of South Korea’s relatively young democracy and the “feistiness” of the South Korean character, but neither can validate the continuation of these violent explosions within Korea’s national assembly.
Lawmakers must understand that they not only represent their local constituents, but South Korea as a whole. Before carrying out party interests, legislators need to practice self-control. If our leaders, touting the ideals of free speech and democracy, must resort to physical violence to achieve their goals, what kind of message are they sending to our citizens and to other democratic governments around the world? Parties must be willing to compromise, rather than forming impasses.
In addition, lawmakers must show respect for their peers and understand that democratic order, as a whole, weighs far more heavily than any specific political dogma.
Therefore, rules that ban violence and protect the orderly machinations behind democracy must be set and abided by all parliamentary members, lest we forsake order for motivated mayhem.
Citizens themselves must become part of the solution. As the electorates, they must express their disapproval to their representatives over physical violence in lawmaking and call for civil compromises between hostile political parties. As a whole nation, we cannot allow our government to shame our society and culture.
The parliament members must leave behind their pugnacious attitude and adopt a more stately respect to their positions and the beliefs they embody, in order to represent our budding democracy to the rest of the world and to set a positive example for the future generations of South Korean lawmakers.
In short, our parliament needs to grow up.
You Jung Kim, senior at Kamiak High School,