Published : 2013-09-23 21:05
Updated : 2013-09-23 21:05
For lawmakers, Chuseok is a time to touch base with their constituents back home. During the holidays, they travel to their hometowns and listen to the voices of local residents.
As in other years, most lawmakers went back to their hometowns during the long Chuseok break last week to get in touch with their constituents and hear what they had to say about major national issues.
Now back in Seoul, they are sharing what they have seen and heard during their visits with party leaders to help them better grasp the sentiments of local people.
One theme that runs through their stories is the growing dissatisfaction among local citizens with the present economic situation. While the nation’s economy is in recovery, most provinces are excluded from it.
Small shopkeepers and vendors at traditional markets in regional cities say that they had the worst ever Chuseok season this year.
One reason is consumers’ preference for large discount stores and department stores. On top of that, consumers cut spending as product prices went up while their incomes stagnated or were reduced in real terms.
Legislators from the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition Democratic Party heard similar stories from people back home. Yet they offered different interpretations.
Saenuri lawmakers attribute the economic woes in provinces to what they see as the DP’s partisan one-upmanship. In their view, the opposition party only seeks to score political points in disregard of people’s livelihoods.
This perception is shared by President Park Geun-hye, who rejected all demands put forward by DP leader Kim Han-gil during the three-way meeting last week.
Park’s stern attitude signaled that she would not seek any compromise with the DP and counter its attack by highlighting its glaring neglect of bread-and-butter issues.
Park’s get-tough strategy is based on her high approval ratings, which hover at around 60 percent. But it is questionable whether such a confrontational attitude will make the DP cooperate in passing her reform bills.
The opposition party lays the blame squarely on Park. Claiming that the president is out of touch with issues that people care about, DP lawmakers say they no longer have any expectations from her.
The party has for months focused on street protests, leaving the National Assembly in paralysis. Yet it is well aware of the risks that such an ill-advised strategy poses. So it has decided to follow a dual-track strategy down the road.
On one hand, the party will continue its extraparliamentary campaign. At the same time, it is expected to participate in legislative processes and other parliamentary activities.
A two-track approach is what the party needs to come out of the corner into which it has boxed itself. And it would put the Assembly back in operation. Yet it does not mean a smooth passage of the reform bills designed to revitalize the economy.
The party says it will only pass proposals that suit its policy objectives. The powerful party has every right to do so. Yet it needs to think seriously about whether such behavior will help it regain the public’s trust.
The two main parties need to make every effort to normalize the National Assembly and improve people’s livelihoods.