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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on July 15)

2017/07/15 09:01

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Normalizing Assembly

: Parties should focus on passing urgent bills swiftly

President Moon Jae-in's 11.2 trillion won ($9.74 billion) supplementary budget plan has gained momentum after being held back by the National Assembly.

The Assembly's budget committee convened Friday to review the government's supplementary budget bill, which is primarily aimed at alleviating youth unemployment by generating jobs in the public sector and supporting smaller companies that hire young people. The meeting was made possible after the opposition parties decided to end their boycott of parliamentary activities over their objection to some of Moon's controversial Cabinet picks and the legality of the extra budget bill.

Their decision came after Cheong Wa Dae made some conciliatory gestures toward the opposition parties Thursday. The controversial Labor Minister-designate Cho Dae-yop voluntarily renounced the nomination after disputes over his alleged past wrongdoings. It is the second time for one of Moon's minister nominees to withdraw after Ahn Kyong-whan, nominated for justice minister.

The President also sent his chief of staff Im Jong-seok to the People's Party to apologize for remarks by ruling party leader Choo Mi-ae that offended the second-largest opposition party. The chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) had earlier accused the People's Party of protecting its senior members suspected of having played a key role in a smear campaign against then-DPK candidate Moon with falsified information. The People's Party has claimed the party leadership had nothing to do with the fabrication scandal.

However, it is regrettable that Moon appointed Song Young-moo as defense minister who was rejected by opposition parties after confirmation hearings due to ethical lapses, including his close ties to the defense industry.

Cheong Wa Dae's concessions should be an occasion for normalizing the Assembly. Parties should put aside their differences and focus on pressing bills, including those for the supplementary budget and government restructuring.

Given the devastating youth unemployment, the opposition parties should recognize the urgency of the extra budget bill and cooperate for its swift passage. Also the looming amendment to the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement highlights the need to quickly establish a control tower for trade policies. For this, the bill for government restructuring needs to be passed soon to set up a ministerial-level trade bureau within the industry ministry.

It has been more than two months since Moon took office, but he has not been able to fully form his first Cabinet. Among 17 ministries, four ministers have yet to be appointed. This is primarily due to Cheong Wa Dae's weak personnel verification system. Cheong Wa Dae should thoroughly check the backgrounds, including career and personal history, of future Cabinet picks before making an announcement. This is necessary to weed out substandard nominees and expedite parliamentary confirmation.

The public strongly supports the President, but their approval alone will not be enough for him to manage state affairs. Moon needs support from the National Assembly to push through his reform agenda. Therefore, Cheong Wa Dae and the ruling party should continue to be the first to reach out to the opposition, which controls a majority in the 300-seat legislature.