Work together with the opposition
President Park Geun-hye explained to the National Assembly this week why a bigger budget for next year was imperative in order to stimulate the economy. The president held separate talks with the leaders of the ruling and opposition parties after her address, during which she announced a 15-point agenda on government affairs.
It was a rare moment for the legislature and the administration, which has been under fire for a series of botched government appointments and its poor handling of the Sewol ferry disaster, among other issues. But a conciliatory mood has been kindled and it must be kept going.
The administration and the National Assembly must keep the principles of governance. President Park is the first leader to make an address to the National Assembly to plead support for a bigger budget for a second consecutive year. She was demonstrating respect for the legislature and politely asking for legislative support. Lawmakers, in return, promised to pass the budget by deadline.
The president also listed bills that urgently require National Assembly approval. Those include free trade agreements with Canada and Australia and anti-corruption laws to cut off collusion between officials and companies.
The opposition in particular should pay heed to her pleas. The New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) advised against excessive surveillance by state authorities on mobile devices and social networking sites. It also called for the government spend a portion of the revenue from a tobacco tax hike to increase support for firefighters. It pointed out the government should pay special attention to Donducheon and Yongsan residents, as the delay in the transfer of wartime command from the United States will upset development plans in those areas. The government would do well to listen to the party’s advice since they are well-made arguments.
Moon Hee-sang, the new NPAD leader, told the president that she could go down in the history if she goes through with promised reforms to public enterprises and the pension program for government employees. A just success by the president would also benefit the country.
But that cannot be accomplished without the support of the opposition. The opposition must also cooperate in the pension reforms. Like Moon pointed out, an overhaul would require tremendous energy and persuasion. Both the government and the opposition cannot waste this opportunity and must work together to find a reasonable solution for the government employee pension program.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 30, Page 34