Lawmakers will face a daunting legislative agenda when the National Assembly convenes for an extraordinary session next month. Up for deliberation are many bills that could make or break President Park Geun-hye’s second year in office.
Choi Kyung-hwan, floor leader of the ruling Saenuri Party, recently said that the top priority for the party would be passing legislation related to revitalizing the economy and improving people’s lives, which should have been pushed through during the regular session last year.
He has set the party’s priorities correctly. Economy-related legislation needs to be passed without further delay to keep up the recovery momentum. First in importance is the proposal on promoting the service sector, as the government’s job creation strategy depends on revitalizing key service industries.
The bill on facilitating the construction of tourist hotels is also important as the government says that, if passed, it alone would generate some 2 trillion won in fresh investment and create 47,000 jobs.
The government is also pushing to revise the law on the capital market to introduce crowdfunding, a new financing method that allows start-up companies to offer their shares to investors online. Lawmakers should help stimulate investment in venture companies.
Yet it is unclear whether the ruling party will be able to handle these and other economic bills as there are many divisive issues that could thwart its efforts.
One issue that could suck up all the oxygen in the room concerns the revision of the rules for the June local elections. The main opposition Democratic Party is seeking to ban political parties from nominating candidates for local governments and councils, while the ruling party wants to maintain the current system.
Other highly contentious issues include reform of the National Intelligence Service, legislation on protecting North Korean human rights and the government’s plan to introduce a basic pension for senior citizens.
The bills on telemedicine and allowing hospitals to set up for-profit subsidiaries are also in dispute.
To be sure, these issues are all important. But they should not be allowed to obstruct the passage of the proposals designed to speed up the economic recovery and improve citizens’ livelihoods.
To avoid another parliamentary paralysis, the ruling party needs to be more flexible. More importantly, President Park Geun-hye should allow the party to act more independently.
If Park insists only on principles in handling national issues, just as she did last year, it will give the ruling party little room to maneuver in negotiations with the opposition party.
To accelerate the economic recovery, it is essential to have all the reform plans in place. In this regard, Park needs to help the ruling party pass the important bills in cooperation with the DP.