Find a reasonable solutionLee Seok-gi and Kim Jae-yeon of the embattled Unified Progressive Party became lawmakers of the 19th National Assembly, despite their alleged involvement in the massive vote rigging ahead of the April 11 legislative election and mounting suspicion over their pro-North Korea activities in the past.
Each of them receives a whopping 2.9 billion won ($2.4 million) in salary over the next four years, including expenditures for their aides. In addition, they are entitled to receive 1.2 million won each month after retirement - from the age of 65, not to mention a wide range of hefty benefits like the privilege of exemption from liability for their speech in the Assembly and immunity from arrest. All these privileges are provided at the expense of citizens.
The ruling Saenuri Party has so far pressured the main opposition Democratic United Party to adopt a resolution to expel problematic lawmakers, while the DUP came up with the idea of exercising a right to sort out unqualified legislators pursuant to the law on the National Assembly. But these methods seem to be ill conceived. First, the Saenuri Party’s solution is devoid of a clear legal foundation, as the only way to deprive their legislator status is either censuring or examining their credentials. Also, because the censure applies to what they do as incumbent lawmakers, suspicions over what they did before joining the Assembly do not fit the category.
Park Jie-won, head of the DUP emergency committee, said that it violates the regulation of lawmakers’ eligibility because the UPP already admitted to corruption in the primary to pick proportional representatives. However, you can hardly examine qualifications of incumbent legislators who were elected by voters, based on their political career rather than on judicial judgment. It’s better to wait until the prosecution wraps up the investigation into their vote rigging.
The Assembly should deal with the issue in a rational way. First, the speaker must not assign the lawmakers in question to standing committees which deal with national security. Also, their demand for government documents should go through standing committees’ voting. Civic groups, too, can closely monitor if they still engage in pro-North activities. Over the long haul, the Assembly needs to study ways to punish various types of intraparty corruption. Lee and Kim’s successful entry into the Assembly is a serious dilemma for us. But our society must not resort to unreasonable ways to oust them.