Parties asleep on the job

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Parties asleep on the job

The new law designed to ease subsidy competition among mobile carriers and lower phone charges through more transparency in pricing has been in effect for four weeks, but there has been little benefit to consumers so far. The key intent of the Mobile Device Distribution Improvement Act is to have mobile carriers disclose the subsidy amount on each phone every week to ensure that they offer no more than 300,000 won ($283). But at the end of the day, consumers now benefit neither from substantial subsidies nor reduced service fees. Politicians tried to calm public fury by promising to tweak the law, but are at a loss as to how.

Lawmakers have been under fire for approving the new law on mobile device retailing without any study or debate, as they were busy wrangling over the broadcasting law and special Sewol ferry law. The National Assembly ignored the majority vote principle and rubber-stamped the law based on a few opinions. Politicians who had been bickering throughout the year over political issues did not bother to pay attention to a law that affects almost everyone. They passed the law, blindly believing in the government’s estimate that the new regulation could save a household 500,000 to 600,000 won a year.

A political party must reach consensus on a policy through diplomatic and transparent procedures. Moreover, its judgment must be based on the understanding and support of voters. Korean political parties rely too much on the leadership of founders or heavyweight members. The voice of the party head or a few members of the old guard becomes the position of the whole party.

Our society is ever diversifying. Political decisions by a minority can backfire. To avoid such misjudgments and ill policies, the party must be operated more democratically based on legitimate and formal activities in the legislative. Standing committees comprised of lawmakers with expertise in specific fields must take a stronger leadership role. Instead of taking a political stance, parties should transform themselves into forums for debate to gauge the opinions of party members and arrive at a consensus. Both the ruling and opposition parties should upgrade and strengthen the activities of their research arms. They must serve as think tanks behind party policies, instead of election pollsters.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 20, Page 34

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