No more empty-handed parliamentary probe

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No more empty-handed parliamentary probe

After much wrangling, the govering People Power Party (PPP) has agreed to join a parliamentary probe on the Itaewon tragedy. The Democratic Party (DP) and two smaller opposition parties have been wrestling with the PPP over a parliamentary investigation of the disaster since they filed a petition two weeks ago. The probe will last for 45 days. After documental preparation, lawmakers will be briefed from government authorities after settling the 2023 budgetary bill, and carry out field investigations, and hold hearings. The police, fire department, the situation room at the presidential office, and the Ministry of the Interior and Safety among others. The breakthrough came about amidst a prolonged stalemate over the budget proposal for 2023.

Survey showed that more people approved of a parliamentary probe than otherwise. Senior government officials have been disappointing in their behaviors lacking any sense of atonement. Police investigation has been dilly-dallying over a month, demanding an outside investigation into the disaster. Earlier in the week, 34 of the bereaved families gave a joint press conference to call for a thorough fact-finding and punishment on people liable for the 158 deaths of their children.

The bipartisan breakthrough came after the PPP proposed to go along with the investigation after the settlement of next year’s budget. The PPP has changed its mind upon realizing growing public disgruntlement about its reluctance to accept the parliamentary probe. The party had to make a realistic choice as it cannot block the majority opposition from unilaterally pushing an investigation on the parliamentary level. The minority PPP also cannot pass new year’s budget without the help of the DP.

The legislature must delve thoroughly into the deadly crowd crush for accountability and set measures to prevent such disasters in the future. They must find any loopholes in legal and other systems to make amends. Lawmakers also seek out political accountability.

But what tangible results it can bring about remains questionable as the hearing could turn into a political skirmish instead of fact-finding for preventive measures. Some DP members already joined street protests to demand resignation of President Yoon Suk-yeol. Rivaling parties must engage to their duty with sincerity to contain future disasters. They must not repeat the past probes coming out empty-handed due to a lack of binding force for a parliamentary probe.

Lawmakers also must not neglect their duty of settling next year’s budget. Outlook for next year’s economy is grim due to high interest rates and inflation. Lives would be tougher for the working class. The budget bill must pass by the Dec. 2 deadline or within the plenary session.
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