Why is there no mechanism in the Korean Constitution for dissolving the National Assembly? So wondered former Prime Minister Kim Whang-sik recently, asserting that such a mechanism would be useful to resolve the current political stalemate.
Opposition lawmakers denounced Kim, who also served as a Supreme Court justice, for making the reckless comment. They asked if he wanted to go back to the era of dictatorship, when the president could dissolve the Assembly at will.
Of course, Kim did not mean a return to dictatorship. He said he just wanted to stress the need for the ruling and opposition parties to resolve their impasse through dialogue and compromise.
Yet Kim is not alone in feeling the need for such a mechanism, as the ruling and opposition parties are unable to break the deadlock, prolonging the parliamentary paralysis indefinitely.
Political leaders should not dismiss growing frustrations with the Assembly among the public. They need to look at what they have done since the ongoing parliamentary session opened in September.
The 100-day regular session ends on Dec. 10. With only six days to go, lawmakers have not passed thus far even a single legislative bill. No wonder that frustrations have boiled over into an outcry for the dissolution of the Assembly.
Finance Minister Hyun Oh-seok recently vented his frustration. He warned that lawmakers’ failure to pass the budget bill for next year on time would result in 650,000 job losses.
The legal deadline for passing the budget bill is Dec. 2. Yet lawmakers have simply let the deadline pass. The Special Committee on Budget and Accounts has not even brought up the bill for deliberation yet.
Lamenting the Assembly’s failure to act on the bill, Hyun compared politics to a black hole as it sucked up all efforts to pass reform bills needed to revitalize the economy.
Passing the budget bill on time is the least lawmakers could do to keep the economy on track. If the bill is not passed by Dec. 31, the government then would have to set up a provisional budget.
That would be a nightmare as many important projects, including those for infrastructure construction and job creation, would be halted.
To avoid such a dreadful scenario, the ruling and opposition parties need to reach a deal. The four top leaders of the Saenuri Party and the Democratic Party held meetings Monday and Tuesday but could not reach an accord. They need to continue to talk and resolve the deadlock.
The DP should stop boycotting the parliamentary proceedings and normalize the Assembly, while the Saenuri Party needs to find ways to accommodate the DP’s demands.