Rekindling a bipartisanshipRival political parties that had for last three months squandered away time wrangling among themselves finally agreed to pass the long-delayed special law to investigate into the April 16 Sewol ferry disaster and mediate compensations for nearly 300 who died from the sinking. Newly elected floor leaders Lee Wan-koo of the Saenuri Party and Park Young-sun of the National Politics Alliance for Democracy agreed to kick off a parliamentary process to re-investigate the Sewol sinking and map out laws to toughen public safety.
The two reached consensus on details and schedule for the special bill and authorized the special legislative probe committee to decide whether to include presidential chief of staff Kim Ki-choon in the witness list for the hearing on the Sewol tragedy. The bipartisan breakthrough raises hope for other pending legislative issues - bills to reorganize the government structure and sever shady ties between officialdom and business as well as banning illegal solicitations to uproot corruption and collusion practices in bureaucracy, advance services sector and housing market along with a handful of economy-related laws.
The government has repeatedly disgraced itself through blotched handling of the ferry calamity and endless flops in appointments and reshuffle. The legislative disgusted the public by abusing the Sewol incident for self-serving political recipe during midterm elections. The tactic backfired and NPAD was shamefully defeated in the July 30 by-elections, making its co-chairmen to resign. The humbled opposition stopped arguing over details and compromised in negotiations on Sewol disaster.
Under the agreement, victims’ families will be included in the fact-finding committee. The committee won’t have its own authority to investigate and indict people with criminal charges that had been demanded by the opposition and families. Instead, a special prosecutor will be appointed to investigate and press criminal charges. As a result, victim families’ demands were met without disrupting the current law and order. The second grade students of Danwon High School where most of their peers could not escape from the sunken ferry on their way to a school trip to Jeju Island were granted privilege on college admission to compensate for their grief and losses. The senior class also will be given preferential admission, a move some protest as excessive, but nevertheless understandable given the trauma the school students had suffered.
The dispute over calling the president’s chief of staff to the witness stand remains arguable. But there is no reason why the president’s right man cannot represent the government to answer to the big question - how come none of the passengers on the sunken ship rescued? We sincerely hope to see real bipartisan work and responsible legislative activities to address the aftermath of the tragedy and help revive the economy to reset the country.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 8, Page 30