Assembly plagued by corruption
The 19th National Assembly is experiencing a collective ethical crisis. A lengthy list of lawmakers from both the ruling and main opposition parties have lost legislative seats or are on trial for corruption and scandals, so the current assembly could beat the record number of lawmakers from the previous 18th assembly to have been stripped of their title upon convictions. That figure stands at 21.
And the list is ongoing. Noh Young-min, a three-term lawmaker from the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) and head of the Industry, Trade and Energy Committee, recently came under fire for having a credit card terminal at his office to sell his book of poetry published last month. His aide said the terminal had been lent to him from his publisher to make it easier for buyers to purchase it. But whatever the reason, it’s not only illegal but disgraceful that a lawmaker would use the public assembly hall to sell his book. The law prohibits credit card terminals at non-business locations.
Noh also held an event to promote his book, where he is suspected to have profited through bulky sales. For years, critics and political observers have called for an end to these publication parties, which are often used as a guise to raise political funds and exert influence. The public enterprises required to report to the Industry, Trade and Energy Committee reportedly bought piles of Noh’s book. (What do state enterprises want with hundreds of poetry books anyway?)
Noh is one of NPAD Chairman Moon Jae-in’s confidants, having served as his chief secretary during the last presidential election campaign. He should have been more prudent. The National Assembly and opposition must thoroughly investigate the matter for the sake of the legislature’s dignity.
The NPAD has a committee dedicated to safeguarding the rights of the powerless. Noh is a committee member and so is Yoon Hu-duk, who drew criticism for trying to wield his influence to get his daughter hired at LG Display, which is based in his constituency. His daughter had to quit the job due to the controversy. Meanwhile, Shin Ki-nam, who once served as the NPAD’s leader, reportedly met the dean of the law school that his son attended after his son failed to pass an exam to graduate. His case must also be reviewed by the ethics committee.
Ruling Saenuri Party Rep. Kim Tae-won, a senior member of the legislature’s Land, Infrastructure and Transport Committee is suspected to have received political donations from individuals who own land near the new expressway between Seoul and Munsan in Gyeonggi. The money is most likely to be motivated by favors, as Kim insisted on appropriating funds to compensate landowners despite opposition from his peers.
Political donations cannot be regulated entirely. We must rely on the conscience of lawmakers. It should be our voters’ responsibility to filter out and elect candidates with conscience in the upcoming election in April. JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 2, Page 34