Get serious on reform

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Get serious on reform

The Ahn Cheol-soo phenomenon is a vivid demonstration of political distrust. Voters’ calls for a colossal revamp of the political establishment have gained momentum particularly after the independent candidate demanded political reform of the opposition Democratic United Party before he would consider making a deal to merge his candidacy with its own. After DUP candidate Moon Jae-in explained his ideas for political reform two days ago, Ahn offered his yesterday in a speech at a university in Incheon.

The substance of Ahn’s proposals is threefold: a reduction of lawmakers in the National Assembly, slashing of government subsidies for political parties and the abolition of the central party system in Korean politics.

His ideas are too idealistic, vague and not persuasive. They won’t change our political reality. They are the kind of slogans you hear every political season.

First of all, Ahn didn’t offer standards for downsizing the National Assembly. His comparison to representatives of the U.S. Congress is not appropriate given that America has a federal system. In fact, our number of legislators is smaller than in most developed countries considering the size of our population. He’d do better finding fault with our lawmakers’ dereliction of duty than worrying about the number (300) of lawmakers.

Ahn also said that government subsidies for political parties began from the “Chun Doo Hwan administration’s attempt to cajole the opposition camp.” But that shows his misunderstanding of the issue. The subsidy is a necessary expense for nurturing our democracy, as it helps deter politicians from grabbing black money for their activities.

Ahn insists that a revocation of the central party system, which was “introduced by Park Chung Hee after a coup” in 1961, will lead to a disappearance of deep-rooted factionalism in Korean politics. That again reveals a shortsighted view. Even though abolition of central parties and renunciation of their nomination rights are pivotal to political reform, the system still remains unchanged.

Moon’s reform plans are more detailed, but the ruling Saenuri Party’s political reform plans are the most lacking in substance, except for a fragmentary plan for reform of the prosecution. If the ruling party wants to win this election, it must come up with some real proposals before it’s too late.

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