Among the 16 standing committees of the National Assembly, the most unproductive one is the Science, ICT, Future Planning, Broadcasting and Communications Committee. Surprisingly, the committee has not passed a single legislative bill in the past eight months.
The committee’s long name suggests its broad scope of business. It is in charge of matters falling under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning and the Korea Communications Commission.
The ministry was created to realize President Park Geun-hye’s economic vision: making Korea a creative economy by encouraging innovation through technological convergence.
Yet the ministry has thus far failed to live up to expectations because of the committee’s refusal to pass a host of bills. Currently, some 130 proposals remain in limbo.
Blocking the passage of legislation is a dispute between the ruling and opposition parties over corporate governance of broadcasting companies.
The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy demands that each broadcast outlet set up a programming committee consisting of an equal number of representatives from management and labor.
The committees are supposed to assume full responsibility for broadcast programming, making decisions regarding the types, content, quantity, time, and arrangements of the broadcasted items.
The main motivation behind the proposal is to prevent management of broadcast outlets from setting programming policies unilaterally. The NPAD believes that most broadcasting companies’ coverage of the presidential election in 2012 was biased against it.
Yet the proposal faces strong resistance from private broadcasters. They denounce it as an unwarranted attempt to undermine the freedom of the press and interfere with their managerial rights.
The ruling Saenuri Party takes the side of private broadcast outlets. Some Saenuri lawmakers say they cannot endorse a proposal that they claim runs afoul of the Constitution. Yet many scholars do not buy this argument.
For the NPAD, the issue is important, given the huge influence TV stations wield on politics and elections. Yet this does not mean that its refusal to pass other important legislative bills is justified.
The proposals that keep piling up at the committee include the nuclear safety bill that President Park Geun-hye wanted the Assembly to pass before her speech at the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague last month.
They also include bills aimed at protecting personal financial information, promoting the space industry, supporting the cloud computing industry and correcting abnormal mobile phone marketing practices.
These and other bills should be handled during the ongoing parliamentary session. Otherwise, they will have to wait another several months.