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.
By Jay Kim