Dark shadows over the AssemblyThe 19th National Assembly finally convened yesterday after the previous Assembly ended more than a month ago with physical fights between lawmakers across the aisle. The new Assembly speaker Kang Chang-hee from the ruling Saenuri Party expressed a sliver of hope for a model parliament, saying, “This is the last chance for us to earn the voters’ respect.” In the meantime, Representative Lee Seok-gi, one of the 300 lawmakers, who is infamous for his pro-North Korean stance, came to the opening session late. It could be fortunate, though, that he sang at least some lyrics of our national anthem despite his signature defiance of the song.
But dark shadows hang over the new Assembly with the Lee Myung-bak administration increasingly susceptible to the lame duck phenomenon with only five months left before the December presidential election.
But Lee didn’t mention what the people want to hear - including a straightforward “sorry” for his brother’s receiving bribes in hundreds of millions of won from savings banks - in his speech to celebrate the opening of the Assembly. We believe that a president at the end of his term can recover some of his integrity as head of state by candidly expressing his position on moral issues. But he didn’t. Lee is also expected to disappoint the new Assembly with a long list of corruption among his relatives and confidantes, not to mention a slew of inappropriate appointments mostly based on favoritism.
For the first time in two decades, the Assembly convenes in the same year as the presidential election. However, we vividly remember all the fuss in opening the legislature due to the hegemony fight between political rivals and between ruling and opposition parties in 1992. We hope the Assembly does not show what the people don’t want to see - the visceral fights for political gain irrespective of constituents’ wishes.
We are concerned about representatives’ temptation to gain power at the expense of national interest. Representative Lee Yong-sup of the Democratic United Party came up with short-sighted proposals to close Seoul National University and build a second Blue House in Sejong City in a sly move to divide voters. The DUP’s proposal to elevate the Sejong City to an administrative capital is also a razzle-dazzle to get more votes from Chungcheong people. We hope the new Assembly can smoothly weather all the dark clouds ahead.