Do-nothing committees

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Do-nothing committees

Finally a voice of common sense and introspection has sounded from the National Assembly, which has been both unproductive and totally cacophonous this year.

Noh Woong-rae, a representative of the opposition Democratic Party and a member of the National Assembly’s Science, ICT, and Future Planning’s Broadcasting and Communication Committee, said everyone in the former department should be referred to the Ethics Committee for negligence in duty. Refreshingly, Noh included himself.

The withering criticism is absolutely understandable in view of the committee’s track record for the year - which is zero. The committee has not passed a single bill. As its long name suggests, the committee’s size and coverage was expanded after the creation of a new ministry by President Park Geun-hye. But it proved to be a do-nothing body, playing fiddle throughout the summer and autumn only to discover, as the weather changed, that it has not provided for itself for the winter.

The committee fell into a comatose state after the DP linked all of its legislative reviews to reform the board of the public broadcaster KBS. The DP wants to restructure the board by placing directors recommended by the management and labor union and also appoint the president by a vote from two-thirds of the board members instead of the current half. The motive is to minimize the influence of both the ruling party and the government on the public broadcasting network. The Saenuri Party refused to accept the reform ideas, which somehow the DP never thought of when it was the ruling party. Views on the reforms were also mixed in the National Assembly special committee on fair press.

With no signs of concession in the KBS debate, the DP should have backed down on the issue and allowed the committee to work on other bills. At the same time, the DP was boycotting bills such as the urgent attempt to strengthen nuclear power safety by using the new National Assembly Advance Law.

The performances of other standing committees weren’t much better. The Health and Welfare Committee has not gotten around to laws on pensions for the disabled, senior citizen support and child care because of differences about the government’s bill on the basic pension. The Agriculture, Food, Rural Affairs, Oceans, and Fisheries Committee has not been able to move other bills due to a dispute over the rice quota price.

Most of the work to approve a bill is done in the standing committees. If a standing committee cannot separate political issues from pending lawmaking duties, the National Assembly Advance Law will only serve as a tool to paralyse lawmaking activities. All of our lawmakers should pay heed to the self-critical voice of Representative Noh.

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