Elusive political reform
Politicians in charge of spearheading political reforms in the country’s four political parties had a heated TV debate on the topic. Three terrestrial broadcasters aired the debate live since it was a rare discussion on political reform involving all the country’s legitimate parties. Political reform has become that urgent. Although reform has been repeatedly cried out for and promised over the last decades, the political front actually has made scant progress. But such reform can no longer be delayed as Korea pushes ahead with the colossal work of reinventing the nation following the tragic Sewol ferry sinking. To push ahead with other challenging works - economic revival, reform of government employees’ pensions, public enterprise reform and eradication of corruption in officialdom and business- politicians first must be reborn.
Politicians have notorious double standards. They demand much of others while they claim their own mistakes and misdeeds are prerogatives of being in office. They must drop that act. Political reform can be accomplished in three major areas: productivity improvement, an end to abnormal practices and surrender of privileges. Members of four parties - the Saenuri Party, New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), Unified Progressive Party and Justice Party - reached an agreement on an outline. But turning words into action is definitely not going to be easy. In a recent Saenuri Party conference, members strongly opposed the idea of no-work-no-pay for representatives and a ban on lucrative book publishing events. Similar reforms were resisted by the NPAD.
The principle of no-work-no-pay is important to improve political productivity. If any political party delays legislative activities, it must be punished by stripping its representatives of their pay during the idle period they created. The mechanism would be effective in preventing parties from boycotting the legislature to run out into the streets to hold protests.
Banning politicians from holding book publishing events should be part of a campaign to do away with abnormalities in politics. Even with various regulations, book publishing ceremonies remain the most effective way for politicians to raise political funds. But this is misused. Reforming the process of picking candidates for elections is a must. Both the ruling and opposition parties should come up with reasonable guidelines to improve the primaries.
If politicians do not reform themselves, the public may do it for them.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 13, Page 34