Moving to the middleA joint survey of 217 lawmakers in the 20th National Assembly by the JoongAng Ilbo and the Korean Political Science Association shows that 55 percent of the ruling Saenuri Party support the idea of raising corporate taxes. That means a majority of the conservative party’s representatives agree to a corporate tax hike persistently championed by the opposition Minjoo Party of Korea and People’s Party. Especially noteworthy is that the ruling party’s political heavyweights — such as former chairman Kim Moo-sung and eight-term lawmaker Suh Chung-won, leader of the pro-Park Geun-hye faction — approve of the hike even though they desire a gradual introduction.
A remarkable synchronization also took place on such issues as employment and welfare. More than 80 percent of Saenuri lawmakers said that the government must reinforce measures to protect part-time workers and introduce a free education system for elementary, middle and high schools depending on people’s income.
Even on diplomatic and security matters — hotly contested issues between liberal and conservative parties in the past — politicians’ attitudes converged in the middle of the road except over such sensitive issues as the introduction of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system in Korea or the resumption of the Kaesong Industrial Complex. A whopping 72.8 percent of Saenuri lawmakers wanted the government to increase humanitarian aid to the North even amid endless provocations by the North.
Such ideological convergence reveals that our lawmakers are increasingly leaning toward liberal values compared to four years ago. The survey shows that the ruling party’s former chairman Kim Moo-sung is more liberal than Kim Chong-in, interim leader of the liberal Minjoo Party. The results of the survey show that there is no other way than a grand compromise between the two rival groups in tackling our pressing economic challenges, including the ever-worsening unemployment situation for our young generation. That reaffirms the common sense notion that there should be no division over such issues as people’s livelihoods.
After the survey, the leadership of the ruling and opposition parties must cooperate. Our political parties have such tight control over their lawmakers that they don’t nominate any one in the next election when he or she does not follow party positions. That’s why it has been very difficult for our lawmakers to cast votes based on their beliefs.
But the results of the survey demonstrate that a considerable number of our lawmakers maintain flexible and realistic attitudes beyond party lines. Leaders must establish a democratic environment in which they can vote in accordance with their consciences.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 6, Page 30