Bills have waited long enough

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Bills have waited long enough

The National Assembly on Wednesday is expected to pass much-delayed bills on counterterrorism, North Korean human rights and a new electoral map. We are happy to hear the rival parties finally found middle ground to approve the legislation.

The counterterrorism bill was very publicly challenged by a historic filibuster by opposition party members through last week. They questioned whether powers granted to the National Intelligence Service (NIS) in the bill will undermine civilians’ rights and their privacy.

The National Assembly speaker stepped in and came up with an alternative that restricts the legal use of wiretapping by the state agency to countering suspected terrorist activities. It is up to the government and NIS to stay within the legal boundaries to ease lingering suspicions about the new law.

Some delayed economy-related bills will also be dealt with. They include bills to lower the maximum lending rate by consumer finance institutions, accelerate corporate restructuring and create a state agency to improve consumer finance. The bills were subject to automatic nullification if not passed before the Assembly’s term ends. They were held hostage due to wrangling over more contentious bills, delaying corporate restructuring and cheaper financing for the working class.

Crucial bills to reform the labor sector and advance the service sector remain pending. The bills to restructure working conditions and increase flexibility in job markets were made based on an agreement by unions, companies and government representatives last September. But unions changed their mind, and the opposition sided with them.

The government’s unilateral push for bills to improve conditions for contract workers was what triggered protests from the labor sector. Further discussions failed to take place as the legislature became more engaged with the counterterrorism bill following North Korea’s nuclear test and long-range missile launch.

The economy will not suddenly pick up just because of a few new laws. But in the long run, they will certainly help it. One or two concerns must not ruin a broader plan. If there are problems, they can be talked out. The 19th National Assembly must complete its duty by passing these important bills.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 2, Page 30.

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