Assembly stalemate gone too far

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Assembly stalemate gone too far

The National Assembly approved just three out of more than 50 pending bills related to the economy and public livelihood, while shelving the others, in a recent ad hoc session.

The bills already passed the Legislation and Judiciary Committee but were held back after the main opposition demanded a revision be made to the national pension system in line with reforms to the pension program for government employees.

We can only question at this point if lawmakers truly represent the people when they hold bills hostage to bargain for a revision in the national pension system, which should technically be unrelated to an imperative overhaul of the pension plan for government workers.

Among the bills are those that would help young adults more easily pay back their student loans, and health act that requires companies to post graphic warning labels on cigarette packs. Those are directly related to the public good and have already passed the lower committees. However, these kinds of events in the parliament are no longer shocking or disappointing. This is what Korea’s politicians do all the time. But the lack of good judgment and conscience on the assembly floor is still appalling.

The main opposition snubbed the ruling party’s plea to pass the other bills, arguing it should be thankful that three had been agreed upon. It is an outdated mind-set for legislators to regard bills as bargaining cards. For that reason, the legislature has been forever mired in a stalemate.

The session served as the debut stage for the New Politics Alliance for Democracy’s (NPAD) new floor leader, Lee Jong-kul. Lee - known to be a harsh and outspoken critic of the ruling party - maintained a hard-line position. He ignored some voices in the party that urged that the national pension not be in the outline to reform the debt-stricken pension system for government workers.

Some senior members warned they could lose the fight in the end, and that the public could potentially turn their backs on the opposition for raising the premiums in the national pension plan. Does the NPAD really believe it can win public support with such a stiff-necked attitude in the next elections? Was all the talk about being a party for the people and the economy just for show?

President Park Geun-hye should step in and persuade the National Assembly to pass the rest of the pending bills. She is partly to blame for her partisanship and critical voice. Rather, the president should be trying to persuade opposition lawmakers to cooperate.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 13, Page 30

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