Prudence and justiceThe National Assembly will open for 30 days from Monday for an extraordinary session. The floor leaders and executive members of the ruling Saenuri Party and main opposition Democratic Party reached agreement on the schedule. They agreed to use the extended session primarily to pass legislation to help the lives of the ordinary people.
The agenda is dominated by bills related to economic justice. Various regulations are pending at related committees. After headlines about bullying behavior by a salesman from Namyang Dairy Products toward one of his retail store customers, the opposition party is pushing a bill proposing penalties of 3 percent of revenues on companies for such poor business practice in sales outlets. Punitive damages could triple the fines, according to the bill. The ruling party also wants to revise antitrust regulations to raise penalties to as high as 10 times the damages suffered by the weaker party.
Other legislation on enhancing economic justice deferred from the April session will need approval in the upcoming session. They include a revision to antitrust regulations to stop large companies from passing out business deals to their affiliates and sister companies at the expense of other independent companies that could use the business.
The ruling and opposition parties, however, have different approaches. Choi Kyung-hwan, floor leader of the ruling party, said the primary focus should be on security, and job creation and a move toward a “creative economy.” Jun Byung-hun, his counterpart from the Democratic Party, said the legislature should balm the wounds of the underprivileged by reinforcing justice in the economy.
Since they differ in their perspectives, both parties should take more time to discuss the bills. Good intentions don’t dictate good results. The recently passed special law to promote youth employment is a good example. The law requires public institutions to reserve more than 3 percent of their job openings for job-seekers between the age of 15 and 29 in new recruitments from next year. The ruling and opposition parties agreed on the bill to help ease youth unemployment. But the law brought a strong backlash from job seekers in their 30s who will now be discriminated against. Politicians are now saying they will revise the law and expand the age scope.
The economy is in a fragile shape. Medical care must be carried out according to the state of the patient. Economic justice is necessary and a good thing, but it doesn’t have to come overnight. The Assembly has a greater authority in passing laws than the government. It must show prudence and wisdom.