[EDITORIAL] National Assembly Must Behave

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[EDITORIAL] National Assembly Must Behave

We are gravely disappointed with the National Assembly for making much such an ado over the gaffe made by Representative Kim Yong-kap of the opposition Grand National Party. Unable to deal with his remarks, the National Assembly has been interrupted for two days running. How can this Assembly represent the Korean people when it seems incapable of solving such social conflicts?

Mr. Kim's provocative statement ?calling the ruling Millennium Democratic Party a wing of the North Korean Workers' Party ?is obviously out of line. We have already pointed out that Mr. Kim should apologize and voluntarily have his remark removed from the stenographic record. The Grand National Party, for its part, tentatively recognized the error of Mr. Kim's words and expressed its intention to apologize and allow his remark be erased from the record. It is hard to understand why the ruling party is intent on hanging onto this issue at this juncture. The plenary meeting has been interrupted by a minor detail and the Assembly schedule has been derailed. No excuse is enough for this setback.

Another big problem is the all-too-common demand that a representative's name be stricken from the roll whenever such an incident occurs. Aside from Rep. Kim Yong-kap, since the launch of the 16th National Assembly several months ago, the ruling party and the opposition have brought up four lawmakers' names to be removed from the roll. Each lawmaker is a representative elected by the people. Lawmakers enjoy immunity from prosecution and the privilege of not being arrested on charges while the National Assembly is in session. These measures are to guarantee their freedom of activity and their position as the representatives of the people. If lawmakers suggest that their fellow representatives be ousted whenever something insignificant happens, it undermines their own status. Both the ruling party and the opposition must change their confrontational attitude. They have a habit of assuming the most hardline stance they can muster at minor provocations. When they emotionally confront the other side with an all-out offense over a trifling issue, the National Assembly turns into a political battleground, and important national issues ?the budget, inter-Korean issues and the economic crisis, just to name a few ?are pushed to the backburner. That is why the National Assembly attracts the criticism that instead of bringing clashing segments of society together, it expands and reproduces conflicts.

The situation at home and abroad is changing rapidly. It is not time to dawdle by paralyzing the National Assembly because of one lawmaker's flawed statement. The Millennium Democratic Party must normalize the National Assembly by accepting an apology and erasing his words from the record, if these options are offered. That is the way a mature ruling party behaves.

The revision or the abolition of the anti-Communist National Security Law, questioned by Rep. Kim, has been a controversial issue between conservatives and progressives in South Korean society since the June inter-Korean summit talks. Once it is in the open, it is desirable that a full-fledged discussion take place in the National Assembly to resolve disputes in our society. However, it should not be made an object of a political squabble. Nor should one party provoke the other with extreme remarks, as Rep. Kim did. It is necessary to deal with the future of Korea and the progress in inter-Korean relations from a bipartisan position and come up with a comprehensive conclusion.

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