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Back to business, please

Scores of livelihood-related bills are stuck due to the demand of the opposition, the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), to renegotiate an agreement on the special Sewol law. The opposition’s sudden reversal has forced the proposals - aimed at rejuvenating the economy, opening up the services sector and revamping the government - into a state of limbo at the National Assembly. While the ruling Saenuri Party wants to deal with those livelihood bills separately from the enactment of the Sewol law, the opposition has refused it. Thanks to the new National Assembly Law, the ruling party cannot pass any of the bills without the opposition’s consent. The stalemate will even affect the regular legislative audit of the administration.

The opposition’s strategy of linking the Sewol law to the passage of other bills can be understood. But the NPAD has gone too far this time. In a meeting with Saenuri’s floor leader, the opposition agreed to investigate the government’s lethargic response to the tragic sinking of the Sewol ferry - which took more than 300 lives off the nation’s southwest coast in April - based on the special prosecutor law. But the agreement was ruptured by hardliners in the NPAD and outside forces. Some senior members of the party and civic groups pressured its dovish wing, including floor leader Park Young-sun, to backpedal on the agreement.

The legislative tug of war exposes a long-standing flaw in the opposition’s approach as seen in its vociferous call for a renegotiation of the Korea-U.S. deal on American beef imports made during the Lee Myung-bak administration. The beef deal and FTA with the United States have been beneficial to the Korean economy. The hawkish group’s attitude clearly contributed to the opposition’s defeat in the last presidential election.

The Sewol disaster is undergoing investigations by the prosecution, the Board of Audit and Inspection and the legislature. If further investigations are needed, they can be left to the independent counsel. The opposition’s effort to make an issue of the Sewol incident delivered a crushing defeat to them in the July 30 by-elections, as they defied the public call for economic revitalization.

After the defeat in the by-elections, conscientious voices in the opposition saw the need for soul-searching. So floor leader Park Young-sun took the helm of the party. Her first feat as an interim leader was an agreement on the Sewol special law. In less than two weeks, however, the party surrendered to hard-liners. If the opposition wants change, it must change itself first.

JoongAng Daily, Aug. 14, Page 34

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