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(EDITORIAL from Korea Herald on Dec. 8)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:02 December 08, 2020

Runaway legislation
:DP ready to ram through bills that will shake important systems

The ruling Democratic Party of Korea is ready to pass controversial bills on Wednesday, the final day of the regular session of the National Assembly.

The party vows to ram through its revision to the law on the establishment of the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials or CIO. The revised bill neutralizes the opposition party's veto for recommended CIO heads.

In short, the ruling party is intent on getting a figure on its side appointed to head the office. In that case, the agency will likely avoid probing irregularities involving those close to the president and focus on allegations against those critical of them, eventually helping extend their time in power.

The veto is the minimum measure to ensure the office's political neutrality. Late last year when the DP pushed a bill to establish the office, it noted that no one can head the CIO if the opposition party exercises its veto. But now that it won the elections by a landslide, it says something different.

The bill to revise the National Intelligence Service Act raises grave concerns that it could leave a big loophole in national security. It requires the agency to transfer everything related to anti-communist investigation to the police after three years.

Though the police have been involved in spy investigations, their day job is to investigate criminal incidents. It is questionable if the police are able to do what the intelligence agency is doing for anti-communist intelligence gathering and investigation.

Technically, South Korea is in a state of truce with communist North Korea. It must not lower its guard as the North frequently makes provocative military actions.

In this situation, the police are said to be considering reassigning their spy investigation officers to criminal investigation departments. Then it will be no one's business to catch and investigate spies who work for North Korea. It is hard to understand why the ruling camp is trying to weaken anti-communist investigations.

The amendment to the Development of Inter-Korean Relations Act is mocked by the opposition party as the "Kim Yo-jong bill." The government proposed it in an apparent obedience to order by the younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The bill would punish those who fly anti-Pyongyang leaflets in balloons toward the North. For more than a decade, Seoul allowed North Korean defectors and their supporters in the South to fly leaflets toward the North, but the Moon government, which is trying to curry favor with Pyongyang under the pretext of improving ties, reversed its stance suddenly after Kim Yo-jong told the South to enact a law banning the airborne release of leaflets. Now South Korean people face an unbelievable situation where a bill demanded by North Korea is set to pass the South Korean parliament.

The Kim Yo-jong bill is unconstitutional in that it infringes on the freedom of expression guaranteed by the constitution. Those who escaped from the North cited North Koreans' right to know about freedom and democracy, but the government ignored their pleas.

Three business regulation bills -- amendments to the commercial law and the fair trade commission law and a bill to enact the supervision of financial groups -- contain clauses for radical regulations rarely seen in other countries, such as the restriction of large shareholders' voting rights to 3 percent when electing an audit member of the board of directors.

The current National Assembly was launched on May 30 after the DP won a sweeping majority in the April 15 general election. The party elected chairs of all of its 18 standing committees from its lawmakers unilaterally. The Assembly speaker even assigned opposition party lawmakers arbitrarily to the standing committees. It is a stigma on parliamentary democracy and democratic procedures.

The criminal justice system, intelligence for national security, freedom of expression, and the free-market system are cornerstones and pillars of South Korea. A certain political force must not change laws on important state systems one-sidedly. Both ruling and opposition parties must reach a consensus before revising them.

But the ruling party seeks to change important state systems as if they are occupiers, just because it secured a large majority (176 of 300 seats) somehow. If it keeps acting unilaterally, only an empty shell of democracy will remain and then people will turn their backs.
(END)

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