Lawmakers of the ruling Saenuri Party decided to return their salaries for this month, holding themselves responsible for the lack of work done since the new National Assembly began its four-year term on May 30.
The partisan wrangling over how to form some key standing committees has delayed the opening of the parliament, which should have held its first plenary session by June 5 at the latest under the law.
Tuesday’s decision came in line with the “no work, no pay” principle that Saenuri candidates pledged to abide by during the last general election campaign in April.
Some Saenuri legislators resisted the decision, saying the leaderships of the rival parties are responsible for the prolonged standoff. The main opposition Democratic United Party has also rejected Saenuri’s call for them to join the move as a political show.
Such resistant attitudes remain far out of line with the feelings of the public, which is unhappy with the parliament repeating the much criticized precedent of becoming dysfunctional as soon as its term starts. Most people see no reason for the 300 lawmakers to be paid more than 10 million won ($8,680) for idling away their first three weeks in office.
In what could be a source of pressure the major parties may find it difficult to disregard, concerns are mounting that further delay in the opening of the parliament could hamper the functioning of the 14-member Supreme Court.
The process for the parliamentary approval of four justice nominees should be completed by July 10, when their predecessors are to leave the bench.
The legislature has already left the Constitutional Court in an unconstitutional situation for nearly a year by delaying the selection of a judge amid a partisan standoff over the ideological standpoint of an opposition-recommended nominee.
Lawmakers recently denounced business circles for attempting to encroach on their authority guaranteed under the Constitution by taking issue with the legal validity of some proposed bills. But they should feel embarrassed in making such claims when they block the proper functioning of the country’s judiciary system.
It seems that the partisan wrangling might boil down to the issue of which party should take the chairmanship of the Legislation and Judiciary Committee, whose role has become more important in the current parliament.
It appears the ruling party will have to be the one to show more flexibility, as the prolonged standoff will put more pressure on them than on the opposition.