How to build trustLawmakers from the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy have abandoned their legislative duties to stage rallies in Gwanghwamun Plaza and outside the Blue House. They only return to the National Assembly for sit-ins there to protest the ruling Saenuri Party and the Park Geun-hye administration’s “uncooperative attitudes” on the special Sewol law.
These shameful scenes are taking place during a special session of the legislature and four days before its regular audit of the government from Sept. 1. Due to the opposition’s dereliction of duty, a multitude of economy-related bills, including one aimed at preventing suicides of families in extreme poverty with a 230 billion won ($226 million) budget, are all stuck in limbo. We wonder if the opposition only cares about the families of the Sewol victims - or the political points they can score off them.
We discerned a glimmer of hope in 15 opposition lawmakers, including former Minister of Science and Technology Kim Young-hwan, who issued a statement protesting the leadership’s nearsighted decision to stage rallies instead of dealing with urgently needed bills. The lawmakers solemnly asked, “What did we really achieve in the months-long rallies at Seoul Plaza last summer?” They warned that if the opposition adheres to its outdated strategy of staging rallies instead of working on laws, it will be stigmatized as a party that gave up on the principle of parliamentary democracy. Quoting Tony Blair’s famous saying that changing the Labor Party was more difficult than changing the United Kingdom, Hwang Ju-hong, a first-term lawmaker of the NPAD, lamented, “Which is more unattainable: reforming our party or revamping the nation?” He then criticized interim leader Park Young-sun’s last resort of rallies. We hope the 15 lawmakers’ brave defiance of their party leadership based on the backing of former democracy fighters from the 1980s will help rescue the opposition from sinking to the bottom of public opinion.
We find a little more hope in yesterday’s second meeting between the ruling party’s floor leader, Lee Wan-koo, and Kim Byung-kwon, a representative of Sewol victims’ families. The families broke an earlier agreement between Lee and his counterpart Park because of their deep distrust of the government and ruling party. It all boils down to a question of how to build trust. The Lee-Kim meeting offered an opportunity for both sides to open their hearts and narrow their differences. Once trust is built, an agreement will be easier.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 28, Page 30