By Jay Kim
Korean politics seem to have reached a contentious limit. It seems just yesterday that people were criticizing the backwardness of Korean politics for dragging down the Korean economy, but now it has become a problem not just for the economy, but a crisis that threatens the national identity.
This crisis is caused by political establishments that only care about increasing their own power. In fact, the opening of the 19th National Assembly is still delayed due to the fight between opposing parties over the selection of chairpersons of the standing committees. The legal opening date, June 5, has passed, but there is no sign of matters settling down. Since the National Assembly, the legislative branch, does not follow the law, a group of pro-North Korea lawmakers are defying public pressure for their resignation, laughing at the National Assembly.
In the U.S. Congress, every chairperson of a standing committee is from the majority party. Not a single committee chair position is given to the minority party. When the people voted the Saenuri Party into the majority, what they wanted is not for the Saenuri Party to share the chairman positions of the committees with opposition parties, but to take over the Assembly and run it well. The minority parties, if they don’t like it, should just win the next election. This is the American congressional system. The floor leader of the Saenuri Party is also pathetic. Despite the majority status that it achieved in such a difficult way, the party is wasting time, pushed around by the opposition party. Is this the way for a ruling party to behave? It should open the Assembly in a hurry, get rid of proportional representation, and make the members of the Assembly pledge allegiance only to the Republic of Korea.
There is no such system of proportional representation in the U.S. It does not have such a non-democratic system where people go through the trouble of casting another vote for the party they prefer, parties select their proportional representatives as they please in proportion to the number of those votes, and the odd numbered positions in the list of candidates for proportional representatives of a party should be assigned to women. It is also through proportional representation that the pro-North Korea lawmakers have entered the National Assembly. In the U.S., a congressman without a district is unimaginable. When I asked why proportional representation is needed, the answer was that it is needed to have lawmakers with expertise. I would like to ask who, among the proportional representatives in this assembly, have expertise and in which field it is. Maybe they are experts on North Korea. It seems common sense that since a proportional representative is a lawmaker selected by a party based on the number of votes that the party has received. If the person is expelled from the party, the person should lose the seat as well. How can there be a proportional representative without a party? For the first time in the history of our country, we might have independent proportional representatives. This is really ridiculous.
I suggest Korea get rid of the system of proportional representation. Why do we need proportional representation in Korea? If the 54 seats of proportional representatives are removed, the number of the members of the National Assembly will be reduced to 246. One member of the Assembly represents about 180,000 people. This should be enough. In the U.S., one House Representative represents 620,000 people.
Also, the lawmakers in the National Assembly should take the following oath in front of our flag. “I solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the Republic of Korea, and defend the Republic of Korea against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that threaten its democracy, and that I will bear true allegiance only to the Republic of Korea.” This oath is roughly based on the oath of office that I took in the U.S. Congress. A member of the National Assembly who has taken this oath will never be able to make strange statements such as “Historical proof is needed to decide which side started the Korean War,” “The sinking of the Cheonan was made up with conspiracy.” “North Korean defectors are traitors,” and “The hereditary system and human rights issue of North Korea should be understood from the North’s point of view.”
A member of the National Assembly should not be a hypocrite who seems to serve two countries, enjoying freedom in South Korea but always on the side of North Korea. The person should choose one country and take an oath of allegiance such that only the Republic of Korea is the person’s country, the one for which the person will lay down his or her life. Anyone who rejects or breaks this oath should be expelled from the Assembly. A person who lacks such patriotism does not deserve to be a member of the National Assembly.
Jay Kim is a former U.S. congressman. He serves as chairman of Kim Chang Joon US-Korea Foundation. For more information, visit Kim’s website (www.jayckim.com).