A dereliction of duty

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A dereliction of duty

The ambivalence surrounding two bills - one the would require day care centers to install CCTV cameras, and another that mandates graphic health warnings on cigarette packs - underscores how clueless and irresponsible politicians can be.

In a dismal display of bipartisanship, lawmakers delayed the passage of both bills and have since come under fire for giving into pressure from special interest groups ahead of April’s parliamentary elections. Ruling Saenuri Party floor leader Yoo Seong-min promised to pass the bills in April amid public outcry. But given the way the legislature behaved this time, we cannot be sure.

The CCTV requirement was included in the revised child care bill the National Assembly’s Health and Welfare Committee unanimously approved last month. The bill was tweaked and the provision on web camera installation was dropped after it arrived at the Legislation and Judiciary Committee. When it finally made it to the National Assembly’s plenary session, legislators left the room or abstained from voting, effectively rejecting the bill. Even members of the Health and Welfare Committee were among the non-voters.

The Health Promotion Law revisions that included the provision requiring cigarette makers to post graphic health warnings were sent back to the subcommittee without explanation. Both were rejected for incomprehensible reasons.

The call for CCTV cameras to be installed in day care centers - which was rejected nine times before - was put up again after video footage of a day care teacher smacking a child went viral. The revised child care law also includes improving teachers’ working conditions and protects those who report child abuse. Yoo said the lawmakers that vetoed or gave up votes did so not because they were lobbied, but because of their own beliefs. However, it’s no secret that day care centers have been lobbying hard against the bill in their constituencies.

The legal move to enforce graphic cigarette warnings has been brought up at the National Assembly 11 times since 2002, and for the first time in 13 years, it passed in the Health and Welfare Committee. But it failed to pass in the Legislation and Judiciary Committee. Noticeable graphic warnings on cigarette packages are recognized by the World Health Organization as an effective campaign to raise public awareness of smoking’s dangers.

Over 77 countries require labeling. We can only suspect lawmakers gave into aggressive industry lobbying. Now, we can only wait and see how both bills will end up at the next assembly session.

JoongAng Ilbo, Mar. 5, page 30

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