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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoonAng Daily on Sept. 19)

Editorials from Korean dailies 06:56 September 19, 2023

National Assembly stuck in endless fights

Democratic Party (DP) leader Lee Jae-myung was brought to a hospital Monday after holding a hunger strike for 19 days. The DP said he was losing consciousness from dehydration. Nevertheless, the prosecution submitted a request for an arrest warrant for Lee, who faces multiple criminal charges for his alleged involvement in the two suspicious redevelopment projects and the suspicious remittance of $8 million to North Korea in return for favors to a private company. The alarming developments between the majority party leader and the top law enforcement authority dramatically symbolizes the chaotic situation of Korean politics.

As a legislative vote on the motion to approve the request for his arrest warrant is imminent, the DP and the governing People Power Party (PPP) took figurative swings at one another. In response to the DP floor leader's denunciation of the prosecution for requesting an arrest warrant for the hunger-striking party leader to "call for a national reform," Justice Minister Han Don-hoon demonstrated his determination not to "stop the judicial system just because of a hunger strike by a suspect." As Lee vowed to give up lawmakers' privilege of not being arrested during legislative sessions, he must ask DP lawmakers to cast their votes based on their good conscience.

On Monday, the DP submitted a motion to bring down Prime Minister Han Duk-soo from his post after demanding the resignation of all Cabinet members. The PPP floor leader strongly criticized the opposition for disgracing the prime minister. But the DP will likely push a vote to impeach Han on Thursday. The majority party can pass the motion to impeach the prime minister on its own.

Even considering the heated political battles ahead of past parliamentary elections, the current one went too far. Our tense economic and security situation cannot afford heated political fights for their own sake, given the surging household debt and growing concerns about inflation from soaring international oil prices. Some analysts raise the possibility of Korea showing a growth rate even lower than Japan's during the lost 20 years. The security crisis is also growing after the recent arms deal between North Korea and Russia.

Our politicians seem to be convinced that they can win elections as long as they find fault with a rivaling party. But it draws cheers from their supporters only. Lee must end his causeless hunger strike and return to the legislature. The PPP also must seek cooperation from the majority party to effectively govern the country rather than maintaining a combat mode toward the DP.

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