Hope is running outThe 20th National Assembly formally began its four-year tenure on Monday with three major parties and the liberals holding a majority for the first time in many years. The Minjoo Party of Korea is the largest in the Assembly with 123 seats, followed by the ruling Saenuri Party with 122 seats. The People’s Party, which was spun off from the Minjoo Party before the election, holds 34 seats.
The political equation has become complex, making the legislature vulnerable to contention and stalemate. Further adding to the complexities, the three parties have their own factional divisions, with many jockeying for positions. With all these factors taken together, there is a high risk that this legislature will get little done.
It is hardly a good time for political paralysis. The economy is hardly moving, and youth unemployment is at a record high. North Korea is more provocative than ever, while the United States is entirely preoccupied with a presidential campaign. Four economic reform bills and other economy-related bills have been passed on incomplete from the previous legislature.
There is only one way for the new legislature to combat its circumstantial weaknesses. It must try to work through dialogue and compromise. It received a stern verdict from voters in the general election last month. President Park Geun-hye and the three party leaders made a promise to work together during a meeting in mid-May.
That cooperative spirit was disregarded after the president vetoed a bill allowing the legislature to hold hearings whenever necessary. The liberal camp declared it would not try to work with the president and her party. With that kind of a start, we cannot expect the legislature to form a leadership before the Assembly has its first plenary session on June 7.
Then there is the presidential election coming next year. The parties will undoubtedly be engrossed with the campaign instead of tending to lawmaking. Names are already being discussed for presidential candidates, and politicians are already lining up behind them.
We can no longer expect the economy to carry on with politics in such a state. The Korean economy is lost for good if the 20th Assembly neglects its duty. The parties must get their acts together to see through the urgent task of reviving the economy. The presidential office must change its mind-set and attitude. Without cooperation, we have no hope for the 20th National Assembly or the country’s future.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 30, Page 30