Time for a calm reactionThe National Assembly has only about a month left before its last regular session is over, and in that time, the legislature must put to a vote the free trade pact between Korea and China. Our lawmakers must also deal with five bills on labor reform and other bills aimed at rejuvenating the economy. So as the ruling Saenuri Party and the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) prepare for a fierce battle in next year’s general elections, this current session carries great significance.
But the controversy over the ruling party’s push for state-controlled history textbooks has caused normal operations in the Assembly to come to a crashing halt. As the political mud fight continues, the main opposition is poised to reject deliberations on the Ministry of Education’s budget for next year. Despite President Park Geun-hye’s call for the rapid passages of those bills, the NPAD is only intensifying its fight. It even plans to hold a large-scale rally in tandem with liberal civic groups to protest the government’s push for a single state-designated history textbook for middle and high schools.
The opposition can freely take the offensive to oppose the administration’s move. But it must not obstruct national governance. When the opposition reinforced its outdoor rallies - often accompanied by violence - it ended up seriously paralyzing the legislature, as seen in the critical delay in the passage of bills related to public welfare after the National Intelligence Service posted pro-Park Geun-hye messages online allegedly in a bid to help her win the 2012 presidential election.
Needless to say, it’s much more efficient to leave the issue over textbooks to the academic sector - historians, civic groups and the National Institute of Korean History - for constructive discussion. And if the political circle wants to handle the issue, it can take advantage of the standing committees at the National Assembly. Otherwise, if the opposition takes it to the street, it will only lead to an exhaustive ideological and political battle.
President Park Geun-hye must come up with clear and detailed explanations about the problems presented by the current system in which textbooks are simply approved by the state and whether those problems can be fixed. If the government presses ahead with the move, how it can create a balanced and high-quality book free from outside political pressures?
The opposition bloc must also listen to the president’s explanations first, because it is not too late to resolve the issue. Outdoor rallies with lit candles can’t solve it.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 26, Page 34