Ahn makes an offer

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Ahn makes an offer

The People’s Party of former presidential contender Ahn Cheol-soo announced it would pass the North Korea Human Rights Act - pending at the National Assembly due to vehement disapproval by the main opposition Minjoo Party - as soon as the new party obtains its status as a negotiating bloc in the legislature after securing 20 seats. The People’s Party made it clear that it will proactively talk with the conservative Park Geun-hye government and ruling Sanuri Party on diplomatic and security issues to calm lingering public concerns.

In the 19th Assembly, only 30 percent of all proposed bills passed - the lowest level since 1948. The gridlock stems from the controversial National Assembly Advancement Law, which makes it impossible to pass contentious bills unless they are supported by three-fifths of lawmakers. The opposition habitually took advantage of the law to thwart ruling party-proposed bills whenever the need arose. The ruling Saenuri Party also resorted to extraordinary means - including attempts to bypass the law and directly put their bills to a vote through the Assembly speaker - rather than addressing disagreements through dialogue. As a result, our legislature was transformed into a hopeless institution.

Splinter opposition leader Ahn Cheol-soo vowed to kickstart a new form of politics for the frustrated public. But he has not really showed anyone what his new politics are all about - nearly three years after serving as co-head of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (now the Minjoo Party). That’s why people think that Ahn may not be ready to take charge of opening a new chapter in our democracy.

But Ahn has decided to cooperate with the ruling party on such a thorny issue as the North Korea Human Rights Act and Anti-Terrorism Act. We attach great significance to his move as it could offer a clue to what his new politics are really about. Koreans are sick and tired of ruling parties’ railroading of bills and opposition parties’ kneejerk resistance. Ahn and his party must take us further down the road. The party must play a role as a moderate reform party by keeping the ruling party in check while at the same time cooperating with it when necessary. It would be even better if it presents a more constructive agenda than its liberal rivals.

Ahn’s party must use its vote in the areas of labor relations, welfare and unification to promote our national interests and people’s livelihoods. The party’s success definitely depends on whether substantial achievements are made in the process.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 21, Page 30

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