Saenuri bids to ban reps from dual jobs

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Saenuri bids to ban reps from dual jobs

The ruling party leadership is planning to propose a bill to ban a lawmaker from being able to maintain a ministry position while holding legislative office, but is facing strong backlash from incumbent representatives.

The ruling Saenuri Party’s leadership is in process of introducing a revised bill of the National Assembly Act, which forbids a lawmaker from holding a side job while serving.

“We will completely ban all jobs, not only those like professor, doctor, attorney and executives of conglomerates, but also public positions that are politically meaningful,” Yeo Sang-kyu, the leader of the party’s special team for the bill, told reporters on Saturday.

“For instance, posts such as prime minister, cabinet, presidential aide and the Blue House chief of staff will not be allowed,” Yeo said.

The new bill approves only jobs of “non-paid, public activities” and requires any lawmaker who wants to hold a job to report to the National Assembly speaker.

In the 18th National Assembly, more than 40 percent of lawmakers retained other jobs. The most problematic of those are lawyers because they are prone to corruption, especially receiving political contributions from clients as legal fees.

However, the incumbent lawmakers of the ruling party are harshly opposing the move, demanding lawmakers be allowed to serve as minister and lawmaker at the same time.

Under the Lee Myung-bak administration, a total of 11 lawmakers were appointed as ministers and retained their legislative office at the same time.

“Most lawmakers agreed to ban holding side jobs for private earnings, such as attorneys. But more than half of the lawmakers are opposed to the ban on holding two titles, such as minister and lawmaker, at the same time,” Hong Il-pyo, the party’s spokesman, told reporters at a briefing.

The protesting lawmakers say that even if a lawmaker becomes a minister, he or she doesn’t get paid salaries for both posts, so holding a job as a minister isn’t for private purposes.

They also argued that it would cost a lot of state funding to hold by-elections to fill up vacancies left by those appointed as ministers. And a ministerial-level post needs a person like a lawmaker who has comprehensive insight on understanding state affairs. A lawmaker-and-minister also becomes a “bridge” to help communicate between the administration and the National Assembly. A party official also told the JoongAng Ilbo, “Roughly 80 percent of the party members were opposed to banning a lawmaker from becoming a minister at the same time.”

The leadership was supposed to propose the bill on Friday, but they postponed it due to the resistance of lawmakers.

However, the party leadership said they will push ahead with the bill as planned. Ahead of the upcoming presidential election in December, they are wary that the internal strife over the matter could give a negative impact on their victory.

“We are planning to introduce the bill on July 2 [today] after explaining the purpose of the bill to the lawmakers specifically once again,” a party official told the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Kim Hee-jin []
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