Rights bill must be heard

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Rights bill must be heard

Representatives of college student groups met with leaders of both the ruling and opposition parties at the National Assembly on Monday to request a bill on North Korean human rights. These members of the so-called P-generation (P stands for participation, passion and potential power) are young people who have been awakened to the grim human rights abuses in North Korea since the Cheonan incident and the Yeonpyeong attack.

This group has persistently demanded passage of the North Korean human rights bill, which passed through the Foreign Affairs, Trade and Unification Committee in February last year but has yet to be submitted to the full Assembly.

The group, which is famous for aggressively expressing its views, finds it hard to understand why the bill is still stuck in the standing committee. That’s why they marched to the Assembly to hold the lawmakers accountable.

Their reaction is right. Once going through a standing committee, bills should be sent to the Legislation and Judiciary Committee before being submitted to the full Assembly. This simple procedure, however, has been blocked by fierce resistance from the opposition Democratic Party.

The chairman of the Legislation and Judiciary Committee, Woo Yoon-keun, who is also from the DP, reportedly said the bill would be discussed further in his committee. But fierce opposition by DP floor leader Park Jie-won has kept the bill in limbo. According to GNP floor leader Kim Moo-sung, Park is of the position that the DP can never pass the bill, even if “our lawmakers are called ‘followers of the North.’”

The DP must answer the students’ questions about why its legislators aren’t following Assembly rules. Unless there are problems with the wording, the bill should move on to consideration by the full session. If the bill has a possibility of provoking the North - as the DP argues - it must be discussed in the full session, rather than stuck in a standing committee. The actions of the DP lawmakers represent explicit disrespect of the law beyond their privilege.

The students have also cast suspicion on the will of GNP lawmakers. The GNP should also decide about how sincere they are about the bill’s passage. Defying its earlier pledge to legislate the human rights bill after the two provocations by North Korea, the GNP came short of passing it. Politicians from both sides of the aisle must answer the students’ questions immediately.
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