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[Editorial] Good bills abandoned

21st National Assembly fails to pass bills for better lives, future of nation

By Korea Herald

Published : May 29, 2024 - 05:30

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A slew of bills for deregulation and support of industries among others are set to die as the 21st National Assembly’s term expires Wednesday.

At the plenary session on Tuesday, parliament voted down the controversial special counsel bill to investigate allegations that the presidential office unduly meddled with an inquiry into the death of a marine. The special counsel bill, which President Yoon Suk Yeol had vetoed earlier, has therefore been automatically scrapped.

The majority-controlling Democratic Party, however, passed five disputed bills including a special bill to assist the victims of home lease fraud; a revision of the Grain Management Act which mandates the government's purchase of excess rice; and a bill that dramatically expands the scope of former democracy fighters as recipients of government rewards. President Yoon is expected to veto them.

The People Power Party has insisted that such contentious bills should be handed over to the 22nd National Assembly. In protest of the opposition's plan to push for those bills, the ruling party boycotted all standing committee meetings, risking important bills for the nation’s future that the rival parties have already agreed on.

They include a special bill that provides grounds for building facilities to permanently or temporarily store spent fuel from nuclear plants. If South Korea does not build those storage facilities, the Hanbit, Hanul and Kori nuclear power plants will have to shut down starting in 2030. Temporary storage within those plants has neared saturation. If the nuclear power plants stop operating because there is no place to store the high-level radioactive waste, the nation will face a major power shortage.

A bill aimed at fostering the artificial intelligence industry and a revised “K-Chips” bill that extends the sunset of tax credits for chipmakers, which is currently the end of this year, to 2030 are also set to die. So are the bills that allow large supermarkets and discount stores to have their mandatory closures on weekdays instead of second and fourth Sundays; ease excessive regulations on lawyers doing business on the Internet; limit the inheritance of children’s properties by their parents who did little to raise them; increase the number of judges to prevent delays in trials; and extend the duration of child care leave to three years to help encourage couples to have children.

These are all bills imperative to improve the lives of the people and the future of Korea, and there was no dispute over them as the Democratic Party shifted from its previous stance. The People Power Party suspected that the main opposition party agreed on those bills to build a case to pass the special counsel bill. Whatever the main opposition party’s intent, the ruling party can do its job by voting against bills it doesn't agree with, and voting for bills that are important. Instead, the ruling party boycotted all standing committee meetings to discuss the latter in order to resist the Democratic Party’s plan to vote on the former.

The 21st National Assembly ended up passing only 36.6 percent of the bills proposed over the past four years. This is the lowest ever rate. It failed to pass necessary bills because rival parties were once again preoccupied with wrangling over bills for their own partisan interests until the last minute. It deserves to be called the worst ever parliament.