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[Editorial] Back to work

Lawmakers have a lot of homework to do

Lawmakers of the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition Democratic Party now have their work cut out for them as the National Assembly has been normalized after a long paralysis.

The chairmen and floor leaders of the two parties reached a breakthrough agreement Tuesday night, ending the protracted political impasse. They agreed to set up two special parliamentary panels, one to reform the National Intelligence Service and the other to rewrite local election rules.

They also agreed to pass the budget bill within this year, but left the stickiest issue unresolved. Regarding the DP’s demand for an independent counsel to investigate the alleged election meddling by the NIS and other state agencies, they simply agreed to continue to discuss “the timing and scope” of the proposed investigation.

The first thing lawmakers have to do is to start deliberation on the budget bill and related legislative proposals. The Dec. 2 legal deadline for the passage of the budget bill has already passed. To avoid chaos, it should be pushed through by Dec. 31 at the latest.

Given that deliberation on a budget bill normally takes three weeks, there isn’t much time left. Furthermore, it could take longer this year as the DP is determined to overhaul the government’s proposal.

Deliberation on budget-related legislative proposals could also take time as the two parties differ on almost all issues. For instance, when it comes to tax reform, the DP insists on collecting more taxes from big corporations and the affluent, while the Saenuri Party is opposed to any attempt to increase tax rates.

A host of bills aimed at revitalizing the economy also requires prompt action. In the agreement, the two parties pledge to review legislation pertaining to people’s livelihoods as early as possible. They should have done that much earlier.

Many important proposals, including those to boost the housing market and induce corporate investment, have been gathering dust for months. They should be passed without any further delay to give the economy a much-needed shot in the arm.

In handling these bills, lawmakers should work across the aisle, putting aside their ideological differences. The main criterion they should use in screening these proposals is whether they will contribute to job creation or not.

Yet progress in deliberating the budget and other reform bills will depend on how far the proposed committee on NIS reform goes in accomplishing its legislative tasks.

The DP has set a comprehensive agenda for the panel. It includes, for instance, strengthening parliamentary control of the spy agency’s budget and restricting or banning NIS agents from accessing government offices and political parties to gather information.

The committee was given until the end of December to carry out its legislative agenda. To ensure that the mission is completed within this time frame, the DP plans to link the passage of the budget bills to the progress the panel makes.

The party’s commitment to NIS reform is welcome. Yet its reform agenda raises the concern that it may put the spy agency in a straightjacket, making it difficult for the agency to properly carry out its given mission.

In reforming the NIS, the opposition party should avoid the folly of prescribing a remedy that is worse than the sickness. It also needs to remember that revitalizing the economy is more important than straightening out the spy agency.