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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Dec. 11)

All News 06:52 December 11, 2020

Absence of bipartisanship
: Ruling party criticized for tyranny of majority

The National Assembly wrapped up a 100-day regular plenary session Wednesday, approving more than 110 bills. Yet the ruling and opposition parties cannot avoid criticism for having engaged in political bickering and partisan strife over thorny issues and contentious bills. It is regrettable that the rival parties have failed to work for bipartisanship at the Assembly.

First of all, the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) should take the blame for railroading controversial bills without reaching a consensus with the opposition parties. One example was the unilateral passage of the "fair economy bills" -- amendments to the Commercial Act, the Fair Trade Act, and the Financial Groups Oversights Act.

The DPK should have listened carefully to those voicing opposition to the bills not only from minority parties but also corporations that are worried about the negative effects the tightened regulations will have on their business activities. At least the governing party should have made some effort to persuade the opposition parties and business representatives to accept the legislative purpose of promoting fair trade.

Ramming through the bills is tantamount to a tyranny of the majority. Winning a supermajority of 174 seats in the April general election, the DPK stressed the importance of cooperation with the opposition. But it has only shouted an empty promise of bipartisanship and has done little to embrace minority parties. The absence of dialogue and compromise has undermined the legislative process, dealing a setback to the nation's democracy.

Another controversial bill is for the creation of the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO) law. DPK lawmakers railroaded the bill through a plenary session Thursday, one day after the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) blocked a vote on it by conducting a filibuster. The minority party said it could not accept the bill aimed at removing the veto power held by the two PPP-recommended members of the seven-person committee tasked with selecting candidates for the inaugural chief of the CIO.

The DPK has pushed for the establishment of the independent investigative body as part of President Moon Jae-in's much-touted prosecutorial reform plans. But the PPP has opposed it, arguing that the new agency could be used to cover up corruption among core members of those in political power. The partisan conflict is likely to escalate further following the passage of the bill

The legislation seems to be inevitable to ensure the speedy debut of the CIO. But the DPK should not give up on finding a compromise with the PPP and other splinter parties. Or it will lose trust and credibility with the public, while putting the legitimacy of its legislative work at risk.

For its part, the PPP with 103 seats should not stick to an all-or-nothing attitude. It needs to take a flexible stance to find common ground with the DPK. It must refrain from opposing just for the sake of opposing. We hope the rival parties will restore bipartisanship to focus on improving people's lives and reviving the economy hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
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