Published : 2014-05-21 20:12
Updated : 2014-05-21 20:12
The National Assembly has opened an extraordinary session to tackle a wide array of problems posed by the Sewol ferry fiasco.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have begun to slam the government officials responsible for turning the ferry’s sinking into a manmade tragedy by bungling the rescue operation.
The officials deserve to be excoriated for their ineffectual rescue efforts and their failure to fulfill their duties. But lawmakers are not in a position to throw stones, as they live in glass houses.
Last year, they did not pass any of the 80 odd bills related to safe vessel navigation and disaster relief for the victims, including those aimed at revising the Maritime Safety Act and the Disaster Relief Act.
They only rushed some of them after the capsized ferry left more than 300 dead or missing.
Legislators have also been reluctant to pass the so-called Kim Young-ran bill, which is aimed at rooting out corruption among public officials, simply because the bill, if enacted, would also constrain them.
Had the bill been enacted, it would have been effective in preventing retired and incumbent public officials from colluding to pursue private interests in disregard of their public duties.
Now, lawmakers need to assume their share of responsibility for the tragedy and do their utmost to prevent a similar one. For this, they need to calm down and focus on analyzing the deep-seated problems exposed by the debacle.
The National Assembly is set to launch a parliamentary investigation into the tragedy. The two main political parties should resist the temptation to seek political gains through the probe.
They should refrain from politicizing the investigation and allow their lawmakers to focus on getting to the bottom of the disaster and finding clues to the puzzling questions that remain unanswered.
Lawmakers also face a challenging legislative agenda. They need to enact a law enabling the government to confiscate all assets held by the family of Yoo Byung-eon, who owned the ferry operator.
Otherwise, the government would have to use taxpayers’ money to compensate for the victims of the disaster and cover the costs of retrieving the bodies of the deceased.
They also need to revise the criminal law so that severe punishments, such as hundreds of years in jail, can be meted out to those who cause deadly accidents.
They also have to prepare for the launch of a fact-finding committee, which would include outside experts and members of the victims’ families, as well as lawmakers and government officials.