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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Oct. 7)

All News 07:01 October 07, 2020

Break old habits
Rival parties should refrain from political wrangling

The National Assembly will launch its annual audit of the government and state agencies Wednesday. The inspection is drawing attention because it is likely to be different from previous ones. It is the first of its kind for the new Assembly which began its term in May following the April 15 general election.

One of the palpable differences is that the inspection period will be cut to 20 days from the usual 30 or more days in the past. Also conspicuous is the Assembly's decision to minimize on-site inspections as part of efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee has cancelled its spot inspection of overseas Korean embassies. Instead, the panel will hold audit sessions via video links.

Many of the hearings will be carried out via video conferencing to avoid personal contact and reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection. For Thursday's hearing, the Health and Welfare Committee plans to use a video hookup to link lawmakers at the Assembly building with officials at the health ministry and the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

Such changes are inevitable due to the pandemic. But they also should be matched by lawmakers' efforts to break their old habits of turning the audit into a partisan struggle and political wrangling as they have done in previous years. That is why both the ruling and opposition parties should focus on how to bring COVID-19 under control and minimize its impact on the economy. More than anything else, they need to work together, instead of fighting each other, to scrutinize the Moon Jae-in administration's response to the health crisis and its policies to stimulate the economy and improve people's livelihoods.

Yet tensions are growing between the governing Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) and the main conservative opposition People Power Party (PPP) over major contentious issues, including a favors scandal involving Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae's son during his military service, and the recent shooting death of a fisheries official by North Korean military personnel on the West Sea.

It is disappointing that the National Defense Committee has yet to set its inspection timetable as the rival parties are unable to narrow their differences over who to call as witnesses regarding the scandal and the tragic shooting incident. It is necessary to shed light on allegations that Choo exerted her influence to help her son illicitly extend his sick leave in 2017 when he served as a private for the Korean Augmentation to the U.S. Army (KATUSA). It is also urgent to reveal the truth behind the death of the official and figure out why the Moon government failed to prevent it.

The DPK should not become engrossed in only defending the administration, dismissing the PPP's call for thorough investigations as political offensives. For its part, the PPP must refrain from attacking the ruling party and the government for partisan gain without presenting any policy alternatives. Both sides should go beyond partisanship and cooperate in promoting democratic checks and balances by conducting a better audit of the administration.


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