No more empty slogans, please

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No more empty slogans, please

Park Jai-chang, chairman of the Saenuri Party’s special committee for political reform, has revealed the ruling party’s basic direction toward its goal. Though the party leadership has yet to elaborate on the details of the reform, the party’s efforts to turn the ambitious goal into concrete actions are noteworthy.

Both the ruling party and main opposition Democratic United Party competitively came up with commitments for political reform during their campaigns for the December presidential election. They vowed to relinquish their extraordinary privileges as lawmakers, starting with giving up immunity from arrest during legislative sessions. They also pledged to not take salaries when they aren’t working in the National Assembly, downsize their hefty pensions after retirement, bar legislators from having a second job and cut their annual allowances, all as a gesture to meet the growing demands of the times.

But we wonder what they did for the last four months. The Saenuri Party has only kept their promise not to nominate candidates for municipal elections. That’s all. But if the opposition party says no to the ruling party’s idea, it could hardly be realized. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle promised to revamp their extravagant pension systems, but they have backpedaled to maintain their privilege. That’s not all. As it turns out, the ruling party’s rosy slogan of “balanced appointments for high-profile government offices” without taking regional and factional factors into account was only a strategy for election victory.

We are seriously wondering if the spectacular array of commitments toward political reform was just bait to get more votes in the election and if they really were determined to revamp the political establishment. That’s why all the pledges look like bounced checks.

In fact, political reform is not a difficult concept. It’s about narrowing the distance between politicians and citizens. Shifting the axis of politics from politicians to the people is political reform and advancement. There is a broad consensus on how to achieve it: Lawmakers’ extravagant privileges must be limited and a reform on the party, legislature and election systems is a must.

There are few, if any, disagreements between the ruling and opposition camps. The only question is whether they have a strong enough will to put it into action. Both parties must enact their reform pledges and implement them quickly. Political reform based on empty rhetoric is a political regression.
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