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Conduct unbecoming (KOR)

Apr 29,2019
We are disappointed at the National Assembly’s shameful transformation into a battleground for physical altercations. Some lawmakers had to go to the hospital after violent fights between the ruling Democratic Party (DP) and main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP). In a rally staged by the LKP last weekend, extreme catchphrases such as “End the dictatorship!” and “Protect our Constitution!” appeared. People are embarrassed to see the dramatic descent of our legislature into a place for physical fights.

All the fuss resulted from an agreement between the DP and three minor opposition parties — excepting the LKP — to put on a “fast track” sensitive bills on the establishment of a new law enforcement body designed to root out corruption among high government officials — which signified a rearrangement of investigative rights between the prosecution and the police — and electoral reforms. The bigger problem was their pursuit of partisan interests without taking into consideration the public interest.

From the beginning, it might have been wiser for the bills to be dealt with separately. The Blue House and ruling party pressed ahead with them jointly because their need to set up a special anti-corruption institution matched the minor opposition parties’ desire to increase their seats in the legislature through electoral reform. In the bargaining process, the act to establish the new enforcement body ended up without substance after it removed the president’s relatives and lawmakers as targets of indictments. Additionally, the electoral reforms became so complex that even lawmakers could not understand them.

Reform bills require an effort to find a common denominator through public debate. The DP and three parties triggered violence after trying to push the unrelated bills through behind-closed-doors committee meetings. Instead of actively presenting feasible alternatives, the LKP resorted to violence.

Primary responsibility for the renewed violence in the National Assembly should be borne by the leadership of the Bareunmirae Party, which forced internal opponents to accept their collaboration with the ruling party. In the face of their opposition, leaders of the party replaced its two members on the Judiciary Reform Committee. That was reminiscent of the undemocratic practices of our past authoritarian governments.

Our politicians blindly adhere to their partisan interests. They must stop fighting and have a head-on-head meeting to address the crisis.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 29, Page 34