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A step forward

Dec 10,2019
A heated standoff between the ruling Democratic Party (DP) and the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) may be coming to a resolution. After the LKP elected Rep. Shim Jae-chul, a five-term lawmaker, as its new floor leader Monday, the DP decided not to put on a fast track the two controversial bills on revising the electoral law and establishing an extra investigative body aimed at probing corruption by high-level government officials in the regular session of the 20th National Assembly, which ends on Tuesday.

The LKP later promised to withdraw a threat to filibuster the two bills and many others if its demands for next year’s budget are met. It is fortunate that the two parties are close to a breakthrough. But there still are a number of livelihood-related bills waiting to be passed.

The most urgent of all is next year’s budget. Though ruling and opposition parties had agreed to deal with it in a plenary session on Tuesday, they could not because of their standoff over other more politically sensitive bills. Since the Moon Jae-in administration came up with the largest-ever 513 trillion won ($430 billion) budget for next year, it has been constantly under attack for its tendency toward profligacy. Lawmakers even passed the legal deadline of Dec. 2 for passing the budget bill and then hurriedly opened the Special Committee on Budget and Accounts in the afternoon yesterday.

To make matters worse, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are being criticized for their negligence in checking if the budget was appropriately allocated to find a new growth engine for the economy, not to mention under attack for their collusion to secure budget for pork-barrel projects in their constituencies. That is nothing but a dereliction of duty as they are only bent on transferring a financial burden to the next generations.

A bigger problem will emerge after the end of the regular session of the Assembly. A feud between the DP and the LKP over the electoral revision and the special investigative agency is getting fiercer than ever. Despite their behind-the-scenes negotiations, they still show stark differences over the role and composition of the new investigative entity, as well as about the total number of lawmakers and the ratio of electoral representation in legislative elections. The LKP strongly demands nullification of the electoral revision agreed to by the DP and other four minor oppositions and calls for a renegotiation. LKP Chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn even threatened a battle to block the two controversial bills from being passed and bring three cases allegedly involving the Blue House’s abuse of power to justice.

In a reconciliatory move, DP Chairman Lee Hae-chan has raised the possibility of compromise by consenting to the idea of fixing the rules of the game in elections. The LKP’s new floor leader Shim Jae-chul also showed flexible attitudes by pointing to the need for negotiation. We hope they do not waste time attacking one another on unreasonable grounds.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 10, Page 30