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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on March 24)

All News 07:03 March 24, 2023

DP's tyranny flows onto the rice front

The Democratic Party (DP) has railroaded a controversial revision to the Grains Management Act in the plenary session of the National Assembly. The amendment aims to compel the government to buy surplus rice when it exceeds a certain limit. Despite a heated debate led by the People Power Party (PPP) shortly before the passage on Thursday, the revision was approved by 169 votes from the 277 lawmakers present.

The majority party holding 169 seats in the 300-member legislature attempted to put the revision to a full vote last month, but the National Assembly speaker delayed the vote. Since then, Kim mediated the two parties, but after they failed to narrow their differences, the DP pressed ahead with the voting. This explicitly shows how far the liberal party will go to achieve its goals.

The revision mandated the government to purchase rice if the supply exceeds 3 percent of expected demand or if rice prices fall more than 5 percent on year. The DP claims the revision can help farmers maintain their income by preventing a steep drop in rice prices. But a majority of rice experts oppose the revision as it will surely fuel rice overproduction and worsen the fiscal condition of the government. They worry about the possibility of wheat or bean farmers turning to rice farming given its mechanization rate of more than 90 percent while the rate is 60 percent for other crops.

The government spent 790 billion won ($615.5 million) to purchase 370,000 tons of excess rice last year. In 2030, the oversupply will reach 640,000 tons, or 1.4 trillion won for the government to buy. If the revision goes into effect, the rice glut will deepen further to raise the budget for additional purchases of rice, which will help endanger our food security.

The DP was negative about the revision when it was the governing party. But after becoming an opposition last year, the party completely reversed its position to win votes from farmers, a major support base for the party. Earlier, the DP also submitted another controversial revision to the Broadcasting Act to a full vote after skipping a deliberation process by the legislation and judiciary committee.

The DP cannot avoid criticism for unilaterally submitting a number of contentious revisions to a plenary session for its own political gains. Such aberrant behavior shakes the very foundation of democracy. President Yoon Suk Yeol must exercise his rights to veto, and both parties must concede to find a realistic solution. The government must use the budget to strike a balance in crops to strengthen the competitiveness of our agricultural industry.

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