The National Assembly started its 100-day regular session Monday. Opposition members who had boycotted the parliament attended the opening ceremony, but it is still uncertain whether the legislature will begin normal operations soon.
The annual parliamentary sitting, usually called “autumn session,” is important because it is used to deliberate the budget proposal for next year and conduct an audit on the executive and judiciary branches.
Besides the yearly agenda, the Assembly is tasked with passing key bills on anticorruption, public safety regulations, economic stimulus measures and deregulations. These all-important bills have been set aside for months due to the partisan confrontation over the “special Sewol bill.”
We are already fully aware that political parties put their partisan interests ahead of their legislative duties. The parties still deserve harsh public criticism because they have not passed a single bill since May because of the stalemate over the Sewol bill.
The key to resolving the monthslong impasse is how to deal with the demand of the families of the Sewol victims that the inquiry panel to be created under the bill be given the right to investigate and indict those responsible for the disaster, which claimed the lives of more than 300 people.
It is the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy that holds the key. The families’ demand goes beyond the bounds of the nation’s legal and judiciary system, which gives the right to indict only to the state prosecution and independent prosecutors appointed by the president.
Yet, the NPAD rescinded agreements with the ruling Saenuri Party twice, in order to side with the families. It is a pity party officials still believe that everything they say on behalf of the families will receive support from the general public.
The ferry disaster did shock the nation, and all Koreans were infuriated by the flawed maritime safety regulations, botched rescue operations and corruption that underlay the catastrophe. But many now want the parliament and government to take due follow-up measures like passing the special bill and put an end to political wrangling over the disaster.
But the main opposition party continues to stick to the issue, apparently believing that doing so will fan antigovernment sentiment. The continuing fall of its public approval ratings demonstrates that it is utterly mistaken.
Rep. Park Young-sun, the interim NPAD leader, visited Jindo Island, which has the nearest major settlement to the site of the ferry sinking, Tuesday. She once mentioned a plan to walk for 20 days from the island to Seoul. She and her 129 NPAD colleagues at the Assembly still do not know what it is the people pay them to do.