Time to wake up, lawmakers

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Time to wake up, lawmakers

The Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee of the National Assembly drew up a statement condemning Japan for stirring up regional tension and disputes through a high-profile homage to the Yasukuni Shrine, a brutal and symbolic reminder of Japan’s imperialist past and wartime aggression. The statement, however, failed to cross the threshold of the plenary session due to a lack of attendance until yesterday morning. Despite the urgent agenda, only 70 lawmakers kept to their seat - less than half of the 151 headcount needed for the vote.

The resolution aims to send a strong warning to the Japanese government and the Liberal Democratic Party for its ultra-right behavior. The ruling and opposition camp reached a bipartisan consensus to raise concerns about Japan’s nationalistic turn and condemn Tokyo after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent a ritual offering to the war dead at the shrine.

Abe’s deputy prime minister as well as hundreds of lawmakers also visited the controversial war memorial that honors 14 war criminals.

The Japanese leaders have been irking neighbors with outspokenly nationalistic comments and behavior, but the local lawmakers could not gather a united voice to criticize them. What grave matters could have kept 230 legislators away from a vote that involved the country’s pride?

On Friday, three newcomers, Ahn Cheol-soo, Kim Moo-sung and Lee One-koo of the ruling Saenuri Party, who won in recent by-elections, were sworn in and officially started their first day. But they, too, were absent from the vote at the time. They explained that they had appointments in their constituencies, but they are unqualified for their posts if they believe their constituency matters more than national affairs.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle talk of reforms and new politics, but from what we have seen so far, they are all the same. Last week, the legislature drew public criticism by attempting to include pork-barrel projects in the supplementary budget.

To lawmakers, all that matters are interests that can buy votes, not serve the country. With their moral standards and work integrity so low, we cannot but worry whether they can help the country fight growing geopolitical, security and economic risks and challenges at home and abroad.

The country is living on high alert due to North Korea’s nuclear threat and Japan’s ever-growing militarist moves. The supplementary budget aimed to stimulate the slow-moving economy could be wasted by lawmakers seeking self-interests. The assembly has already brought enough shame on itself. It’s time to wake up before it’s too late.
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