Vow to renounce privileges
All lawmakers should join drive to reform Assembly
The governing Saenuri Party adopted a resolution on six reform measures for the abolition of lawmakers’ privileges and benefits at the end of a two-day workshop in Cheonan, South Chungcheong Province, Saturday.
We applaud the ruling party’s initiative to renovate the National Assembly and urge the main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) to cooperate actively in renewing the parliament in its 19th term.
The six reform measures are significant enough to instill fresh hope in the public for the Assembly that has been the object of constant mockery for inefficiency, mudslinging, negligence of duty and populism. Four of the six measures are related to lawmakers’ renunciation of privileges while the remaining two clauses are designed to improve the operation of the parliament.
More than anything else, the removal of the retirement pension plan for lawmakers deserves particular praise because it has spawned such strong public uproar. The pension plan had stipulated granting 1.2 million won a month to a lawmaker, regardless of the length of his or her tenure, after turning 65.
The proposal to scrap the lawmakers’ immunity from arrest while the parliament is in session is also noteworthy, given that some legislators have abused the clause to make unfounded allegations or evade getting arrested for crimes they committed.
The package also bars lawmakers from concurrently holding money-making jobs such as practicing law and medicine and serving as corporate outside directors. The relevant law stipulates that members of a parliamentary standing committee must not seek profit by performing jobs related to the panel’s function, but the reality is that a lawyer-turned-lawmaker accepts legal cases as long as he or she doesn’t belong to the parliamentary legislation and judiciary committee.
The ``no-work-no-pay’’ rule, the last of the four reform measures, is aimed at subjecting lawmakers to a general principle that those who don’t work should not be paid. This regulation is supposed to be applied when legislators don’t perform their duties owing to arrest or other reasons.
The two measures to reform the Assembly’s operation envision toughening punishment for violence at the Assembly and requiring a parliamentary ethics committee to have non-lawmaker members. The proposal on punishment for violence, in particular, comes as physical clashes have been a familiar scene in our political arena due to unyielding partisan confrontation. The participation of outside figures in the ethics panel is aimed at preventing political parties from blindly protecting their lawmakers.
It’s right for the Saenuri Party to push for reform in the Assembly, given that all the proposed measures were pledges it made before the April 11 parliamentary elections.
The most important thing at the moment is to translate the reform package into action by persuading the opposition camp to join the move, but the prospects are still murky. The main opposition DUP could show lukewarm responses to the reform plan on the grounds that it was forestalled by the ruling party in the matter. But this would be a short-sighted view, taking into account the fact that voters would applaud the political circle as a whole if the reform package is implemented.
One thing that’s clear is that all lawmakers, regardless of party affiliation, should join the drive to renounce outdated privileges and benefits voluntarily. If not, voters’ mistrust in politics and politicians will be unrecoverable. Taking this opportunity, legislators will have to consider giving up other privileges and benefits that fail to win sympathy from the public. At present, lawmakers are ensured of more than 200 privileges and benefits.