Toward harmonyBoth concerns and expectations hang on newly elected floor leaders Lee One-koo of the ruling Saenuri Party and Park Young-sun of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, who are responsible for shepherding the National Assembly for a year. Park is the first female floor leader in South Korean history at a time when the country has its first female president. The two floor leaders have little in common when it comes to age, background, political path and style. We just hope the new odd couple will surprise us with the art of striking harmony in the operation of the legislature.
The two floor leaders do have a common goal of marshalling the country out of the unprecedented state of shock, rage, shame and disappointment over the Sewol ferry disaster.
The government has lost the confidence of the people through its demonstration of a lack of resolve, action and inventiveness in the face of a devastating crisis. The legislature must make the restoration of public trust in national capabilities a top priority.
But from its track record so far - characterized by listlessness, selfishness, infighting and hostility - the legislature offers little hope of comfort and assurance to the people. If politicians ever think of exploiting the Sewol tragedy for political interests, they will face a strong backlash from voters and punishment at the ballot box. The upcoming local elections on June 4 will be the first test for politicians and parties. Both excessive passiveness and aggressiveness could be costly.
The two floor leaders’ major task will be a comprehensive report on the Sewol tragedy. The U.S. Congress also conducted a thorough investigation into the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks for two years that included the testimony of everyone from firefighters and nurses to the president. As a result, a powerful Department of Homeland Security was created to protect civilians.
The Sewol disaster is a tragic fallout from the deep-seated Korean tradition and psyche that demands fast results at the expense of details and safety. We hope the legislative report will be drawn up to set guidelines for a path toward a new Korean culture and lifestyle.
If lawmakers are sincere, the opposition party’s demand for a public hearing, parliamentary probe and a special law on the Sewol crisis should be accepted. However, the call for a special prosecutor’s investigation at this stage is premature.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 10, Page 30