Try a little dignity

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Try a little dignity

The ruling Saenuri Party disclosed a set of progressive proposals to strengthen the ethics code for lawmakers.

It proposed to establish an ethics oversight board comprised of 13 experts from outside the legislative under the National Assembly ethics committee with authority to summon, question and review lawmakers for misdeeds and misbehavior and recommend legislative actions against them.

The opposition should review and support the proposal and avoid its knee-jerk resistance to whatever the ruling party suggests with the goal of cleaning up and raising the moral ceiling in the legislature.

An outside eye could enhance the ethical standards of the Assembly. We still have vivid memories of Kim Sun-dong, a representative from a left-wing minority party, emerging as kind of hero among liberal members after setting off a tear gas canister in the Assembly chamber to prevent the ratification of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement last year.

Kim was re-elected to the 19th Assembly in April. He was not required to repent. The Assembly speaker pressed no criminal charges for his violent act and the head of the parliamentary ethics committee killed a petition to reprimand him.

From the 13th to 17th Assembly, 102 petitions were filed demanding punitive actions on lawmakers. Of them, the ethics committee approved just 10. None ever made it to the general assembly for a vote.

It is no wonder many question the viability of the ethics committee. If the legislature opposes outsiders getting directly involved in committee activities, it should at least agree to an independent advisory board with authority to interrogate, examine and recommend actions.

To ensure the board’s authority, the ruling party proposed that its set of proposed actions against problematic lawmakers be automatically submitted to a general assembly vote if the ethics committee fails to reach a decision within a designated period of 30 days.

But regardless of the mechanism, it is up to lawmakers to decide if their votes will determine the fate of their peers.

Lawmakers of our nation should themselves endeavor to restore the integrity and dignity of the legislature. If they don’t, any new or progressive system proposed by any side will be of no avail.

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