Reforming the AssemblyWith the advent of 2010, the goal of achieving national progress has come into the limelight. It is meant to bring the country closer to the center of the world. Politics is supposed to be the key driving force behind this move. But Korea’s politics is far from being a driver. Instead, it is now a major barrier.
Various other sectors of the country posted notable progress after democratization in 1987, but politics has been an exception. No developed country in the world has a political status as primitive as that of Korea. Political reform has become the top priority of 2010.
Political reform should have three key tasks - achieving parliamentary democracy, recovery of the authority of lawmakers and removal of inefficiencies of the National Assembly and political parties. A quintessential part of parliamentary democracy should be rule by the vote of the majority.
Although minority opinions are supposed to be respected to a sufficient level, final decisions should be up to the majority. Since majority rule is based on voting, the voting process should not be interfered with. The ruling Grand National Party has submitted bills on improving the functions of the National Assembly.
Under the proposed bills, lawmakers perpetuating violence would be subject to disciplinary measures such as prison terms, fines and even removal.
Also, the bills will make it possible for police to enter the National Assembly at the request of the National Assembly speaker. Kim Hyong-o, the speaker, says it is nearly impossible to maintain control of the assembly room with only 60 security guards of the National Assembly against lawmakers who wage sit-in protests. Mobilization of police could be an effective measure. For Korean politics to cultivate a culture of persuasion, compromise, discussion, negotiation, decision making and acceptance, institutional prohibition of acts that hamper the voting process is imperative.
Respective lawmakers are a constitutional institution. They have been committing violence or occupying the National Assembly floor at the order of their party leadership - like employees of security service firms. That’s mainly because parties hold the right to screen political nominees. Thus, reforming the nomination process should be prioritized. The process should become more open. Setting up a group consisting of citizens, ordinary party members and external experts to take responsibility for nominations could be considered.
More than anything else, the submission of bills to the National Assembly should go through a major revision. Under the revision, bills submitted to the National Assembly should be reviewed at any time during tentative sessions, not only during regular sessions. If proposed bills pass a certain period, they should be put to a vote.
The National Assembly’s special committee on political reform has had its operation period extended until late February. Let’s hope it accomplishes its mission by then.