Reps gave themselves a raise under the radar

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Reps gave themselves a raise under the radar

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Despite their grand pledges to renounce unfair privileges, National Assembly lawmakers managed to quietly raise their own salaries 16.1 percent over the last year.

The salary of a lawmaker in the 19th National Assembly was increased by 20.45 million won ($18,017) at the end of last year when the 18th National Assembly approved this year’s budget.

The raise for lawmakers is 4.6 times higher than the average 3.5 percent increase in a civil servant’s salary approved this year.

While the lawmakers might have told the good news to their spouses, they kept it from the public at large. The hefty raise was revealed Tuesday - nine months after the budget bill was passed - by the Saenuri Party’s floor leader.

“I just looked through some data,” Representative Lee Hahn-koo said at a party leadership meeting. “And the first year’s budget for the 19th National Assembly was increased by 11 percent compared to the average budget of the 18th National Assembly, which was 456.4 billion won.”

He continued: “The annual salary of a lawmaker was also increased by about 20 percent. That means each and every lawmaker must increase productivity by 20 percent.”

A transcript of the meeting was released to the press.

According to the National Assembly Secretariat, this year’s base salary for a lawmaker is 137.96 million won, up 15.3 percent from last year. In addition, the special operation payment for each lawmaker was increased from 5.98 million won to 9.4 million won, an increase of 57.2 percent.

In total, each lawmaker receives 147.73 million won of tax money, up by 16.1 percent from last year’s 126.91 million won.

In the base salary, the stipend earmarked for legislative operations was raised the most, by 57.2 percent from 23.94 million won to 37.63 million won.

Translating the annual salary into a daily wage, each lawmaker in the current National Assembly earned 534,000 won daily for the past 161 days although no legislative session was held in August after the Assembly was officially opened on July 2.

“When the House Steering Committee passed the budget bill on Nov. 9, 2011, no increase in the lawmaker’s salary was mentioned,” said a National Assembly official. “It was slipped through when the Special Committee on Budget and Accounts approved the government budget in late December.”

A Saenuri Party official said Park Hee-tae, former National Assembly speaker, first proposed the raise in the salary for lawmakers.

“And at the end of 2010, Representative Kim Moo-sung, then the Saenuri floor leader, and Representative Park Jie-won, then the Democratic Party counterpart, revised the regulations on the specific terms of a lawmaker’s salary,” he said.

“They agreed at the time that the legislative operations stipend would be increased starting in 2012.”

The salary increase for lawmakers was revealed after the legislature launched a special reform committee last month to figure out ways to give up lawmakers’ privileges. One of the key pledges that the ruling and opposition parties made before the April legislative election was a “no work, no pay” principle.

In June, the Saenuri Party ordered its lawmakers to return their salaries for that month when the legislature failed to open its doors due to political deadlock. In August, not a single legislative session took place, but each lawmaker still pocketed more than 10 million won.


By Jung Hyo-sik, Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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