Saenuri reps return first paychecks

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Saenuri reps return first paychecks

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Lawmakers of the ruling Saenuri Party urge opposition lawmakers to cooperate in opening the National Assembly yesterday in the legislative compound in Yeouido, Seoul, after ruling party lawmakers decided to return their salaries because they didn’t do any work in their first month as lawmakers. [YONHAP]


On the eve of the first payday for new legislators elected April 11, Saenuri Party lawmakers decided yesterday to follow through on their promise of “no work, no pay,” surrendering about 1.5 billion won ($1.3 million) of their June salaries.

The ruling party held an emergency meeting of its lawmakers yesterday and made the decision to return their salaries, said Representative Hong Il-pyo, a party spokesman.

The new 300-member National Assembly began its four-year term on May 30, but it has yet to formally open as the ruling and main opposition parties remain in a standoff over control of key legislative committees.

Earlier this month, the Saenuri Party made public a promise of “no work, no pay” as proof that lawmakers want to turn over a more responsible leaf to please the public.

According to Hong, the decision was made with the support of an overwhelming majority of lawmakers. But some lawmakers complained, saying the leadership was responsible for the standoff with opposition parties, not the lawmakers themselves. Saenuri party leaders yesterday pressured the lawmakers to cooperate.

At the meeting, Representative Kim Sung-tae, a two-term lawmaker representing Gangseo B District of Seoul, rejected the leadership’s pressure, saying that the lawmakers were working hard even though the legislature hasn’t opened drafting bills, attending debates and researching policies.

Kim said he didn’t oppose the “no work, no pay” principle when an individual lawmaker didn’t do any work.

“Despite livelihood hardships, the people are paying taxes for the National Assembly’s operation,” Representative Lee Hahn-koo, the floor leader of the Saenuri Party, said yesterday, urging the representatives to follow through on the promise.

He also stressed the promise was a general election pledge, and voters expected the party to follow through with it.

Hong, the party spokesman, also urged the Democratic United Party to follow suit. “It is extremely regretful that the DUP is looking down on our reform, while blaming us for the delay in the legislature’s opening,” Hong said. “We hope the DUP will acknowledge our sincerity and join our reforms.”

Calling the Saenuri Party’s decision a political show, the opposition DUP reiterated yesterday that the ruling party is responsible for the failure of negotiations to form the key legislative committees.

It also remains to be seen what Unified Progressive Party lawmakers will do. Under the party’s regulations, the lawmakers and their aides are required to pay the party “special membership fees,” a tradition that was handed down from its predecessor Democratic Labor Party.

Of the average monthly salary of nearly 11.5 million won, a UPP lawmaker is allowed to keep about 2.7 million won, while providing the rest to the party.

The Saenuri lawmakers agreed that the party’s leadership will make a decision on what to do with the surrendered salaries.

By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr ]

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