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[Newsmaker] Saenuri adopts political reform package

Political reform, or the pretense of it, is once again in the spotlight with the ruling Saenuri Party officially adopting plans drawn up by its reform committee.

Led by potential presidential contender Kim Moon-soo, the committee drew much attention from the beginning with party chairman Rep. Kim Moo-sung throwing his weight behind it.

Despite the support given to the committee, and its high-profile nature, the plans the committee drew up were initially rejected by the party last month. The rejection, although now partly smoothed over, raised concerns that the two Kims would not escape politically unscathed if the committee failed to achieve real results.

The measures accepted by the ruling party include prohibiting incumbent presidents, lawmakers, local administration chiefs and candidates for such posts from holding book launches where transfers of money occur.

Book launches have long been abused by politicians and candidates as a means of gathering illicit funds. 
Kim Moon-soo, chairman of the Saenuri Party’s reform committee, applauds at a general meeting of party lawmakers at the National Assembly on Monday. (Yonhap)
Kim Moon-soo, chairman of the Saenuri Party’s reform committee, applauds at a general meeting of party lawmakers at the National Assembly on Monday. (Yonhap)

In addition, the party will push to have related regulations revised to withhold lawmakers allowances when scheduled plenary session and standing committee meetings are not held, or when a lawmaker is under arrest. Under the plans, requirements for parliamentarians holding other posts will be also be toughened.

The ruling party also plans to revise the Public Official Election Act to establish a committee within the National Election Commission for determining constituencies.

While the plans adopted are seen as a step in the right direction, the exclusion of changes regarding the arrest of lawmakers is raising criticism that Monday’s development is a half measure at best. The reform committee had suggested easing the process of arresting lawmakers, but the plans were rejected.

Under current regulations, a request to arrest a lawmaker is considered invalid if the National Assembly does not vote on it within 72 hours of its submission, and a lawmaker is unable to attend warrant reviews unless the arrest request is approved.

While the ruling party chairman has stated time and again that the party’s reform drive will bear fruit this time, past precedents do not bode well.

Political reform was a major part of election campaigns of 2012 presidential candidates on all sides. However, little has been achieved nearly two years on despite much commotion on the issue in the political arena.

The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy was formed on the the ideals of “new politics” but has only floundered, while Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo ― the champion of new politics and political reform ― is all but spent as a political force.

By Choi He-suk (