The people’s livelihood first

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The people’s livelihood first

The two opposition parties that together form the majority of the 300-member 20th National Assembly reiterated their commitment to improve the economy.

Chung Sye-kyun, a six-term lawmaker of the Minjoo Party of Korea, called for a united front in the new legislature to revive the economy, and proposed forming a multi-partisan committee to address economic challenges. Kim Chong-in, the interim leader of the Minjoo Party, demanded the government come up with a long-term comprehensive vision for the economy and assured the public that the party would offer any cooperation on that front.

Ahn Cheol-soo, co-chair of the People’s Party, also emphasized that public lives should come first and suggested that the ad hoc National Assembly session in April should come to an agreement to work toward solving worsening joblessness among Korea’s youth. The splinter opposition said it will cooperate with the government-proposed labor reform bills, if modifications are made to minimize side effects.

It is a relief to see the opposition parties living up to their campaign commitments after securing newfound power in the legislature.

The Korean economy has been sinking fast while politicians were entirely engrossed with the election so far this year. The Bank of Korea on Tuesday cut this year’s growth estimate to 2.8 percent from 3 percent. Mainstream industries like smartphones, semiconductors and shipbuilding have either ceased to grow or become money-losing. The unemployment rate in the 15-29 age group soared to an all-time high of 11.8 percent in March. Young people juggle between several part-time service jobs because they cannot find a decent full-time job upon graduation. Rage could become explosive if politicians do not tend to their angst and pain.

The outgoing legislature should use the last 40 days in their four-year tenure to pass all the delayed economy-related bills in order to create jobs. The rivaling parties should pay heed to lawmaker Chung’s proposal to form a special committee on the economy to accelerate corporate restructuring and the promotion of new growth industries.

Even with all this cooperation, we cannot be confident that the sinking economy will be salvaged. If opposition parties return to their old ways of wrangling with the government and using economy-related bills as bargaining chips, they could bring on a public backlash. They must set aside all their differences to fight for the economy together.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 21, Page 30
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