Time to get back to businessLawmakers have been sitting on their hands for nearly three months since a new National Assembly convened in May. Despite their duty to enact laws and pass budget bills, they have done nothing except for occasional flashy rhetoric. Yet, they still receive hefty payments as legislators. In the meantime, Chung Ui-hwa was elected new speaker of the Assembly, and Lee Wan-koo and Park Young-sun were chosen as new floor leaders of the ruling Saenuri Party and opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, respectively.
Since the tragic sinking of the Sewol ferry in April, the nation has faced two daunting challenges: establishing effective national safety systems and rejuvenating a stagnant economy. To prepare enhanced public safety systems, the National Assembly kicked off a legislative probe of the worst maritime disaster to pass a special law aimed at preventing such man-made calamities, along with other legislation aimed at rooting out dirty connections between government officials and the industries they should monitor. Lawmakers also reached the consensus that they must pass two urgent bills aimed at banning illegal solicitations in return for favors and sternly punishing those who hide profits from illegal activities. That’s not all. More than 19 bills aimed at revitalizing the services, tourism, medical and housing sectors and creating jobs - not to mention 100 bills related to people’s livelihoods - are still awaiting legislators’ votes.
However, the legislative investigation into the Sewol tragedy came to a halt after the Saenuri Party refused to accept the opposition’s demand that President Park Geun-hye’s Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon appear as a witness. After the NPAD overtly linked the demand to passing other bills, no progress has been made in the probe.
Now that the June 4 local elections and the July 30 by-elections are over, political circles should get back to business. The opposition must accept voters’ antipathy towards its politics of fury, while the ruling party should offer some room for their counterparts to withdraw their hard-line tactics.
We hope Park Young-sun, who is also chair of the opposition’s emergency committee, earns people’s trust through negotiation, not through a power game.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 5, Page 30