Not-so-special committeesThe ruling and opposition parties agreed to create five special committees during the National Assembly’s special session. The respective committees will work on crafting policies tied to everything from political reform, inter-Korean relations and pensions for citizen welfare to infrastructure projects involving airports and power stations. The Grand National Party will head three of the committees, while the main opposition Democratic Party will take control of the other two.
We welcome their bipartisan efforts to address state affairs. However, it is difficult to understand this move, as we already have standing committees that are capable of dealing with these issues. Measures to improve the lives of Koreans and bolster the pension system can be taken up by the standing committees that deal with economic and social affairs, and the committee on foreign and unification affairs can deal with inter-Korean relations.
The National Assembly has always had a penchant for creating special committees that run for a year or a year and a half. Currently, there are already five special committees with a range of focuses, from international sports competitions to job creation and the Dokdo islets.
The addition of five more would increase the number to 10. If they continue to add more, special committees could eventually outnumber standing committees.
Whether we even need the current special committees is also questionable. The committee on job creation, for instance, overlaps with the role of a standing committee and the planned committee to improve lives. Other special committees also more or less exist only in name.
Still, both parties are smitten with special committees, as they provide lawmakers with a wonderful way to give the impression that they are working hard. But they are clearly underestimating today’s voters. Members of special committees are paid at least 6 million won ($5,372) each month for their activities, and senior members can gain points in the political world by heading the entities.
The GNP creates a special committee every time an issue comes up. Some members even say they cannot remember how many committees they served on. Yet we can’t remember when the party came up with an inspiring and constructive policy idea. The push for special committees underscores the immature exhibitionist nature of Korean politics. The National Assembly session is finally open, but apparently nothing has changed.