Park speaks the truth, but too latePresident Park Geun-hye finally spoke out on the prolonged impasse over the terms of a special Sewol law that have paralyzed legislative activity for the last several months. In a cabinet meeting, she said a new fact-finding committee cannot hold the right to investigate and indict, as that would shake the foundation of the constitutional principle of the separation of legislative, administrative and judicial powers, as well as judicial authority.
The opposition, siding with the families of victims from the Sewol ferry disaster, which killed nearly 300 passengers, has been demanding that the special law authorize an independent fact-finding committee with the capacity to investigate the incident on its own and indict those accountable.
President Park said the special law must not be abused politically by people unrelated to the crisis, adding that the terms reached by the ruling and main opposition lawmakers after renegotiations were “final.” She also criticized the legislature for neglecting its lawmaking duties.
What she said is all true. As chief executive of the administration, the president has a duty to defend the constitutional authority of the judiciary. The jurisdiction of investigation and indictment must not be breached. Even within a special prosecution system, it is not sensible to bestow a civilian investigation committee with the overall authority to investigate and indict. The main opposition is also wrong to boycott all legislative activities unless its demands on the Sewol law are met.
The legislature has a duty to carry out its work, and National Assembly Speaker Chung Ui-hwa said he will use his authority as the head of the house to open a regular session. The speaker must put the more than 85 pending bills to vote without delay, and the opposition members must play their part regardless of party affiliation. The Sewol ferry law must be approved as originally agreed upon by the ruling and opposition parties.
Still, the way the president spoke on the affair leaves a lot to be desired. She has kept her silence for the last two months as the victims’ relatives have staged a hunger strike. A month has passed since a bipartisan agreement was reached. If Park had stepped up earlier, much of the confusion could have been resolved. The president, however, has not once met with reporters, even as the interim head of the main opposition stood on the brink of being purged from her own party over the Sewol debacle. The people have a lot to ask of the president. And just as she can demand that the legislature listen to her, so, too, do the people have the right to ask the president to hear them out.