A glaring ethics differenceThere seems to be a world of difference in the ethics of Korean and U.S. politicians.
The U.S. Senate Ethics Committee said recently that it plans to thoroughly investigate an extramarital affair and violation of election laws by John Ensign, a junior Republican senator from Nevada. The ethics committee said it would proceed with the investigation despite Ensign announcing his resignation last Thursday, demanding the ethics committee close the case.
The panel’s chairwoman, Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, and its ranking minority member, Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican, issued a terse statement saying the committee had spent 22 months investigating and “will complete its work in a timely fashion,” adding that Ensign had made the appropriate decision in resigning.
On the same day that the Senate Ethics Committee made the announcement, a disciplinary subcommittee of the National Assembly’s Special Ethics Committee failed even to vote - due to the lack of a quorum - on a motion to punish lawmaker Kang Yong-seok, an independent whose expulsion for sexually inappropriate remarks to female students had been recommended by a civilian advisory committee to the Assembly’s Ethics Committee.
The Assembly Law mandates that the Special Ethics Committee determine punishments based on the recommendations of the advisory committee and submit the motion to the full session of the Assembly.
Therefore, the disciplinary subcommittee should have cast a vote on whether to expel him or not. But the lawmakers who belong to the disciplinary committee thwarted a crucial vote on their colleague by avoiding the vote.
After the voting was frustrated, Sohn Beom-kyu, the chairman of the disciplinary subcommittee, said that expelling Kang would not be easy.
Many of the lawmakers who cast their votes in the subcommittee also said that expulsion would be too harsh a punishment for him.
U.S. Senators refused their colleague’s request to put an end to his case at the cost of his seat in the Congress.
A completely different drama, however, is playing out here as legislators are united in saving the political life of their colleague.
We hope the sharp contrast between the U.S. Congress, which is famous for its stringent standards of morality, and our National Assembly, which is infamous for its overly generous comradeship, will disappear soon.