We need a working legislature

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We need a working legislature

The National Assembly is still in a state of paralysis nearly one month after a regular session was convened. The paralysis stems from the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy’s boycott of parliamentary business over the special Sewol law. Assembly Speaker Chung Ui-hwa vowed to open a plenary session Friday with the authority bestowed on him by the law. Its most urgent job is passing 91 economy-related bills to resuscitate the alarmingly turgid economy. The opposition has repeatedly pledged to kick off vehement strife against the government if speaker Chung chooses to use his power to put those bills to a vote.

The legislature is scheduled to begin its regular audit of the government from Oct. 1 to Oct. 20 in which it questions government activities. It also has to come up with next year’s budget and pass other urgently-needed bills aimed at revitalizing the economy as well as national reforms to avert another disaster like the sinking of the Sewol ferry.

The plenary session of the Assembly, if it opens, will be a turning point in our politics. If the opposition votes no to those bills at standing committees, they can hardly proceed because the National Assembly Advancement Act requires a three-fifths vote for bills to be submitted to a plenary session. Once those bills go through standing committees, however, the speaker can put them to a vote in a plenary session. Even though the opposition could still filibuster those bills, it has a track record of abandoning its duties as lawmakers, as seen in its habitual resort to outdoor rallies. The opposition must do their fair share by passing those bills if it doesn’t want the legislature to remain in a vegetative state.

Lawmakers are entrusted with legislative rights from the people. The special Sewol law, which is aimed at getting to the bottom of the unprecedented maritime disaster, is no exception. Even though the views of the relatives of the victims should be respected, the fate of the bill is up to the legislature. The opposition’s blind obedience to the relatives’ demands amounts to a forfeiting of their duties. It doesn’t make sense for them to link the special law to the passage of other bills. The Sewol law must be dealt with on its own. That’s obvious at this point.

Speaker Chung must not be swayed by opposition truculence. As head of the legislative body, he must stick to principle even at the expense of some of the regular audits of the government and deliberations over next year’s budget. After pushing us into emergency mode, the opposition must normalize the abnormal.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 25, Page 34

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