Term limit debate for lawmakers

By Jay Kim
When I think of the famous words of President John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what your country can do for you ― ask what you can do for your country,” I feel ashamed of the members of the National Assembly.
With blood in their eyes, they have been frantically snatching away people’s taxes. They have not found a fundamental solution to create jobs and revive the economy for the poor, who have only been claiming their rights and asking for more help.
The deadline for the budget bill for next year has already passed, but nobody knows when the bill will be passed as well. The National Assembly might pretend not to know that powerless poor people who rely on the assistance from the government suffer more and more as the passage of the bill is delayed, but nobody else is fooled.
In fact, I have been insisting for a long time that the nomination power that political parties have should be returned to the people. However, I have recognized that this idea would not be easy to be realized due to the tangled vested interests.
Even unions are lukewarm about it, even though they are one of the groups that would benefit the most from returning the nomination power to the people. Maybe union representatives want to keep the current situation, since they enjoy their chauffeur driven limousine just like CEOs of big corporations.
Currently, the leading classes of Korea are greatly satisfied with their lives. Judges, who are the pillar of the judiciary branch; members of the National Assembly, who are the subject of the legislative branch; and leaders of unions do not seem to want a change.
All they do is talk. They only talk up economic achievements without any solution to the agony of the poor who suffer at the bottom and the young who cry for a change.
In a recent poll, the overwhelming opinion was that all these problems were due to the incompetence of the Assembly. Then, above all, shouldn’t the Assembly be reformed?
People with vested interests who were ministers or prime ministers in the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations are being recycled as party leaders, floor leaders, executive committee members, and so on. Does Korea really lack political talent, as this suggests? I want these people to retire so that new faces may come up.
The current Local Autonomy Law of Korea limits a term of a head of a local government to four years and the number of consecutive terms to three. The reason for limiting the number of terms is that without it, corruption may occur, which would also make innovation or reform impossible.
In 1990, a bill to limit the term of a U.S. congressman was also initiated and passed in a referendum by the people in 23 states with 75 percent of the votes.
However, unfortunately, the Supreme Court ruled that a state referendum could not limit the term of a member of the U.S. Congress, which made the movement halt. Instead, they overwhelmingly passed bills to limit the terms of the members of their own state assemblies. Thirty-six U.S. states currently limit the number of terms for their governors and members of state assemblies.
For example, California, the biggest state of the U.S. and where the most Korean-Americans live, limits the terms of state Senate and Assembly respectively to eight and six years, by passing Ballot Proposition 140 in 1990.
Our National Assembly should also have a term-limit like the U.S. Only then can the people see new faces. I suggest that the term be limited to 12 years, which is the same as the head of a local government. It is desirable to prevent someone in the Assembly for 12 years from running again.
Until a constitutional amendment for a term-limit, it is desirable for those political party leaders not to nominate those who have had two terms in the Assembly and to find a new candidate instead. They say that even clean water rots when it stays at one place too long.
Jay Kim is a former U.S. congressman. He serves as chairman of the KimChangJoon US-Korea Foundation. For more information, visit Kim’s website (www.jayckim.com). The views expressed in the above article are the author’s own and do not reflect the editorial policy of The Korea Times.


Paran News 12/3


On December 3, Jay Kim attended a publication ceremony for Choi Min-ho, the former chairman of the Multifunctional Administrative City Construction Agency.

Chosun Ilbo 12/1


Jay Kim gave a keynote presentation at the ‘GTX Forum’ on December 1. The forum was sponsored by Gyeonggido and organized by Gyeonggi Research Institute. It was attended by fifty people including the governor of Gyeonggido, Kim Moon-soo, and experts from related fields.

During his presentation, Kim claimed, “Public transportation similar to the GTX that Gyeonggido is pursuing is already in place in major cities of the world” and emphasized that the capital region should develop a more convenient environment for living through the GTX project.

HelloDD 11/13


“Colonel Sanders traveled around the U.S. to sell his chicken recipe when he was 65 years old. He was rejected 1008 times, but every time he was rejected, he said, “Again.” Finally, in his 1009th trial, he made KFC.”

Jay Kim gave a lecture on ‘why aren’t there any heroes around us?’ at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology on November 13. In his lecture, he talked about real heroes of our time, what people should learn from them, and the social conditions that foster those heroes.

He listed American heroes such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John F. Kennedy, and Abraham Lincoln, and raised a question about the universality of their status as heroes. He said, “There are many cases like Jefferson’s where the heroic image has been broken after a revealed mistake,” and “Lincoln’s image as a hero is relative in the sense that he is recognized as a hero only by some part of the people”.

He pointed out that after Yi Sun-sin, there were “no real heroes recognized by more than 80 % of the people in Korea, and there are only unverified heroes.”


He claimed that the requirements of a hero should be considered in relation to the characteristics of our time, and emphasized that a hero should have a wide viewpoint instead of that of a specialist in one area.

As the characteristics of our time, he picked: English as an international language, imagination rather than experience, short message, positive thinking, etc.

He expressed the need for the spirit of challenge as Colonel Sanders had and the importance of putting in efforts for the future.

In addition, he used Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan as examples to show a difference in leadership. He claimed, “Carter is regarded as the most incapable president of the U.S. He could not draw a big picture, which wore on those around him. On the other hand, Reagan showed great leadership and knew how to use the right people in the right places.”

He emphasized a social atmosphere that could foster leaders, saying that peace “should be maintained by conversation and cooperation instead of power,” and “young people should be given opportunities to work and communicate.”

Korea Economic Daily 11/25


Jay Kim claimed that the incident where Kim Sun-dong, National Assemblyman from the Democratic Labor Party, sprayed tear gas in the National Assembly during the ratification process of the Korea-U.S. FTA was ‘the destruction of parliamentary democracy.’ He claimed, “This kind of incident is unimaginable in the U.S. congress,” and criticized other members of the National Assembly, saying that he “could not understand why other assemblymen were not doing anything about it after the incident.”

He claimed that a similar incident in the U.S. congress would cost the congressman his seat and political life due to disciplinary action or negative reactions from his district, and raised a question about the possibility of sneaking a bomb into the Assembly building.

He pointed out, “Unlike advanced nations where slightly unpleasant remarks or personal attacks would bring political disadvantages to those who have committed such acts, our National Assembly is defenselessly left open to a terrorist threat from a small number of radicals”.

Asia Economy Daily 10/24


Jay Kim gave a lecture, “I do not give up hope,” as the 87th HUNET Lecture at the KFOST International Convention Center on October 19.

During the lecture, Kim claimed that the Korea-U.S. FTA was not a zero-sum game, and urged that people should not be afraid of the free trade agreement.

He pointed out that the markets of various service industries such as finance, insurance, real estate, law, etc., would be open, but claimed that people should not be afraid of the U.S. service industries beforehand and that in the open legal market, for example, Korean lawyers may turn out to be more competitive than U.S. lawyers from rural areas.

He expected that the Korean agricultural industry could face the most challenges from the FTA, pointing out the cheap price of Californian rice and the fatal effect that it would have without the tariff.

However, he emphasized that it should be taken into consideration that the U.S. gave up the shipbuilding market which is 50 times as big as the rice market.

He also advised that this crisis could be overcome by changing rice-oriented agriculture into more competitive crops such as apples and pears.