Assembly reform a top priority

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Assembly reform a top priority

The public has put up with one pointless declaration after another from politicians. They no longer get public attention because their actions do not match their grandiose rhetoric. But there is a ray of hope.

The ruling Saenuri Party recently adopted a six-point reform agenda to pursue in the legislature. They propose that legislators give up immunity from arrest, follow the no-work-no-pay principle, revise their pension system, strengthen penalties on physical violence and enhance the role of ethics committee.

If these proposals are carried out, we may see unprecedented and sweeping changes in the legislature.

Former legislators aged over 65 get monthly pensions of 1.2 million won ($1,025), equivalent to the national pension into which ordinary citizens pay 300,000 won a month for 30 years. Why should lawmakers enjoy this privilege? Members of the 19th National Assembly reported personal assets averaging 2.84 billion won, even exempting Representative Chung Mong-joon, who alone is worth more than 2 trillion won. The figure is more than 10 times the total assets of an average household.

To be fairer, the Assembly should seek ways to provide pensions only to poorer lawmakers or have legislators set aside money for their pensions instead of having ordinary taxpayers foot the bill. As for the ethics committee, it should do more than protect lawmakers from physical attacks in the Assembly, though this is important as well.

As the proposals have been put forth unilaterally by the leadership, it may become part of the ruling party¡¯s campaign platform in presidential race, especially as it was concocted under the leadership of Park Geun-hye¡¯s emergency council. But regardless of how the ideas came about, what¡¯s important is that they are implemented.

If the party does not want its proposed reform to be wasted rhetoric, it must fix the National Assembly Law and other regulations. It also needs cooperation from the opposition, which also needs to improve its image. In particular, the main opposition Democratic United Party should be eager to participate. It should come up with its own set of reform proposals and negotiate with the Saenuri Party to produce a workable compromise package.

Special privileges are bestowed on legislators so that they can serve the people better. But any excess benefits that only feed self-ego should clearly be eliminated.

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