Pass urgent bills todayPope Francis has delivered a no-nonsense message of peace and harmony to Korea during his five-day trip. The pontiff consoled and blessed the distressed souls of Koreans still suffering from the April 16 Sewol tragedy. But eventually we must recover from the unprecedented maritime disaster and move on. And the task of charting a post-Sewol world must begin in the National Assembly, which has been in a lethargic state since the calamity.
The legislature faces a wide array of urgent tasks. It must first pass a special law to provide benefits for Sewol survivors in college admissions and a revised bill on legislative audits of the government, followed by the prompt deliberation and passage of bills aimed at approving a government reorganization plan and banning solicitations in return for favors as well as other bills aimed at developing the services sector, revising the tax code and rejuvenating the sagging economy. The legislature must also reach a consensus on the Sewol special law aimed at figuring out the real cause of the disaster and on whether to summon President Park Geun-hye’s chief of staff Kim Ki-choon to a hearing.
The Danwon High School students who survived the sinking will lose the chance at an advantage in the college entrance examination unless lawmakers convene a plenary session of the Assembly today. When that happens, they cannot shun the stigma of backpedalling on their earlier agreements. If they renege on their consensus to split the regular session of audit and inspections of the government into two starting this year, confusion is inevitable.
Lawmakers from the ruling Saenuri Party and opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy collectively received 11 billion won ($10.77 million) in salaries as payment for doing nothing for the three months since the Sewol disaster. Last week, the two parties were paid 8.4 billion won from the state coffers for the third quarter of the year. Receiving payments for sitting on their hands for nearly four months despite an urgent need to pass all the Sewol-related bills must stop.
The opposition’s floor leader Park Young-sun must keep her promise to pass the Sewol special law. She doesn’t have to link the passage of the special law to other bills because the independent counsel’s investigations will begin only after the legislature’s fact-finding committee finishes its activities. The ruling party must demonstrate leadership to break the deadlock even by compromising on the opposition’s demand to recommend a special prosecutor. But the floor leaders must first pass the two most urgent bills today.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 18, Page 30