The Democratic Party on Monday submitted to the National Assembly a bill aimed at strengthening lawmakers’ ethical standards. Among other things, it allows a recall of lawmakers and imposes tighter rules on taking cash gifts for weddings, funerals and book publishing.
The DP’s submission is a follow-up to the party’s announcement on Feb. 3 of the first of a series of “political self-reform” measures. On Sunday, the DP also announced a package of measures aimed at making it a cleaner party. These included denial of party nomination for people indicted for corruption and banishing those implicated in bribery.
The main opposition party is rushing those and other “self-reform” measures in an apparent bid to revive its popularity ahead of the June local elections. It must feel the need all the more, since it even lags behind a new party being launched by independent lawmaker Ahn Cheol-soo.
The ruling Saenuri Party is also determined not to be left behind. On Tuesday, its top decision-making bodies approved a proposal to expand a “bottom-up” selection of candidates for elections and party posts.
It’s good for political parties to focus on reforms. But it is bad for the parties and their National Assembly members, who speak about the need for change, to neglect their primary job of working on legislation. Judging from what has been happening in the Assembly hall in recent weeks, the political parties’ call for reform is nothing but self-deception.
The Assembly is now in an extraordinary session, which ends Thursday. There are many important bills that should be put to a vote ― those on a new pension for low-income elderly people, a pension for the handicapped, promoting the cruise industry and easing housing regulations, to name a few.
Many lawmakers left those important bills unattended. Only 191 of the 298 National Assembly members attended the plenary session on Feb. 20. About 40 others were visiting China, while Speaker Kang Chang-hee and seven other lawmakers were on a 15-day trip to the Antarctic, New Zealand and Australia. Another seven were cheering on Kim Yu-na in Sochi. One of the most urgent parliamentary reforms is to redress problems like this.