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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Sept. 20)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:02 September 20, 2022

The DP's populist ideas in full swing

The Democratic Party (DP), with supermajority in the National Assembly, is poised to pass the so-called "yellow envelope bill" in tandem with the splinter Justice Party, another progressive party in Korea. The controversial bill prohibits employers from filing damage claims against labor unions or their members even if they are engaged in unauthorized strikes. The DP has designated the revision to the Labor Union Law as its top agenda item to pass through the ongoing regular session of the legislature.

The yellow envelope bill is a typical populist bill. The DP claims that such a revision will help prevent companies from filing claims for property damage indiscriminately. However, the revision not only severely infringes on property rights guaranteed by our Constitution but also pardons labor unions for their illegitimate activities. The bill allows employers to claim damages when unions use violence on their property, yet it has a number of loopholes for strikers to avoid their responsibility for damage.

We have vividly witnessed the tragic story of Ssangyong Motor, which collapsed due to the emotionally-charged overprotection of workers. If the yellow envelope bill is passed, we will see many recurrences of such cases. In fact, the DP is well aware of the problems with the bill. That's why it did not attempt to pass the revision over the past five years of Moon Jae-in's presidency. But since the party became an opposition after its defeat in the Mach 9 presidential election, the DP is pressing ahead with the contentious revision out of purely political motivation. In other words, if the bill is passed, the DP can gain support from unions across the country -- and if President Yoon Suk-yeol vetoes the bill, the party can blame his conservative administration.

The DP is also pushing another populist bill to help "normalize rice prices." The bill is aimed to force the government to purchase rice from farmers when they overproduce it or its prices falls too much. Rice prices have plunged due to overproduction from the expansion of rice paddies and good harvest this year. As a result, agony of farmers deepens when other prices are soaring.

But such a quick fix cannot solve the problem. Overproduction of rice is nothing new in Korea. Rice stocks in National Agricultural Cooperative Federation (NH) have increased to 410,000 tons so far this year -- a whopping 70 percent increase compared to the previous year -- as a result of generous subsidies for farmers to attract their votes in elections.

If the revision to the Grains Management Law is made, it can help lower the competitiveness of our agricultural sector rather than enhance it. We wonder if the DP has already forgotten the past government's endless fiascoes with real estate policy. The party must keep in mind that people do not cast votes for politicians with only populist ideas.
(END)

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