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Calling for a boycott on boycotts

May 14,2018
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KANG MIN-SEOK
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

In the 1870s, there was an agent for a landlord in Ireland. Due to a severe famine, tenant farmers asked him to reduce the rent, but he refused and kicked them off of the land. The villagers’ anger exploded, his servants and maid stopped working and the postman refused to deliver his mail. People stopped selling him food.

The merciless agent was “boycotted,” and his name was Charles Boycott. “Boycott,” the act of voluntary abstention, is derived from his name.
In Korea, the ghost of Charles Boycott from 150 years ago appears frequently at one institution. It is none other than the National Assembly. As of May 11, the Liberty Korea Party (LKP) is boycotting the assembly for the ninth time in recent months.

The LKP boycotted the session even when it was the ruling party. In October 2016, then-Saenuri Party Chairman Lee Jung-hyun demanded Speaker Chung Sye-kyun step down and went on with a “boycott and hunger strike” combination, exactly as floor leader Kim Sung-tae is doing now.

Lee claimed that Chung did not remain neutral in the course of processing the bill to remove Kim Jae-soo, then Minister of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Then-opposition floor leader Woo Sang-ho said that it was strange how the opposition party cooperated to lay the supplementary budget bill as the ruling party pressured hard and the ruling party abandoned it and boycotted the assembly session. When the Democratic Party was the opposition, it also had its share of boycotts.

Of course, not all boycotts are bad. Rosa Parks was arrested for not giving up a seat for a white passenger on a bus, and the historic Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 protesting the racial segregation led to the civil rights movement and changes in racial discrimination. However, I’ve never heard of any National Assembly boycott that left an important mark on history.

The ruling Democratic Party elected Hong Young-pyo as its new floor leader on May 11. With the change in the leadership in the Assembly, the ruling party should move forward in negotiation for an independent counsel investigation. The opposition party must stop its boycott and Kim should eat.

What about the leadership of the ruling party? When Democratic Party floor leader Woo Won-shik visited Kim before stepping down, Kim told him, “You should have reached a deal. It is so hard.” He is pathetic. When the opposition party wants to start boycotting, it should remember that it is named after someone who was ostracized for being mean.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 12-13, Page 35