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Bypassing the legislature

Oct 24,2018
At a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, President Moon Jae-in ratified the Sept. 19 Pyongyang Declaration and a military agreement between South and North Korea. The Constitution grants the president the right to approve a treaty that does not “give huge financial burdens to the people.” If Moon really bypassed the National Assembly and ratified the declaration under the judgment that it does not call for a massive budget, he has no legal problems.

But if you look into the details of the Pyongyang Declaration, lots of money is needed to renovate the old railway and road systems in North Korea and put the suspended operation of the Kaesong Industrial Complex back on track. Connecting the railways and roads will be impossible if international sanctions are not lifted. The public also could understand the government’s attempt to resume Mt. Kumgang tours — if Pyongyang sincerely apologizes for one of its soldiers fatally shooting a South Korean tourist in 2008.

Opposition parties still refuse to approve the April 27 Panmunjom Declaration, in which Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed to achieve a Korean Peninsula without nuclear weapons and make an end-of-war declaration within this year. Nonetheless, Moon unilaterally ratified the Pyongyang Declaration — a follow-up to the Panmunjom Declaration. The Blue House says it was advised by the Ministry of Government Legislation that the declaration does not have to be approved by the legislature. But the opposition criticized the administration for skipping the Assembly to try to acquire budgets needed to implement what both leaders had agreed on in Panmunjom.

We understand Moon’s determination to achieve denuclearization and peace by improving inter-Korean relations. But it is a big problem for the legislature and opposition parties to be excluded. The opposition has been refusing to endorse the Panmunjom Declaration citing a lack of a concrete estimates of the costs involved.

The government did submit its projected costs for putting the Panmunjom Declaration into action. It only presented a one-year budget for long-term projects, which may cost billions of dollars. Moon’s own push for the ratification of the declaration only sparked stronger resistance from the opposition. Some even ridiculed him for following Pyongyang’s demands.

Inter-Korean relations cannot sail smoothly without bipartisan cooperation. Moon must share information on negotiations with Pyongyang. That is a powerful tool to persuade the opposition.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 24, Page 30