firmly in place has been confirmed through an abundance of historical evidence.
Political Reform, A Must for Korea
Opinion Leaders' Digest 98-33
Date: Dec 18, 1998
Author : Hyo Chong Park, Professor, Kyungsang University
Political Reform, A Must for Korea
The recent government announcement on the reform of chaebol seems to signify the completion of restructuring in the economic field. It would have been better if the economic restructuring had been led by the market pressure, rather than by the government initiative. Whatever happened, once the economic restructuring is completed, it is desirable to have the restructuring continue and evolve smooth.
Reasons Why We Need Transparent Politics
Business - politics collusion is pointed out as one of the greatest causes of the economic crisis in Korea. It is argued that economic structure was not transparent due to the business - politics collusion and consequently economic crisis occurred. However, the lack of transparency in the political structure is closely related to the lack of transparency in the economic structure.
Without clearing the opaque political scene, it is no use asking for the transparent management practices in companies. The lack of transparency in the political world and the transparency in the market can not co- exist. In fact, one of the reasons for the lack of transparent management in the business world results from the opaque political world. Let's think of the socially despised business - politics collusion. The business - politics collusion is created because politicians (the government) wielded regulative authorities as sticks and carrots to companies. Companies are established to make personal profits. What would the profit - seeking companies want from the political groups, carrots or sticks? The answer is evident. It follows from this that without clearing the opaque political world, transparency of market economy is hardly attainable.
From another important perspective, politicians' decisions should be more transparent than those of businessmen. Responsibility of businessmen for their decision and choice is fundamentally ascribed to the businessmen and the social impacts are partial. However, politicians' decisions are binding for the society as a whole and the issue of responsibility is hard to determine. Because of this, the politicians' decisions should be made along the transparent procedures acceptable to everyone.
Despite such rationales for transparency, politicians discuss and decide over public policies in the closed room, behind the screen or in the rear. As public policies lack transparency, so-called "Murphy's Law" and "Sally's Law" prevail and citizens are embarrassed. That is, since economic agents are not able to make accurate predictions about the future due to the uncertainty of policies, they are apt to employ non-transparent methods
Democratization of Political Parties
The government took an issue with the arbitrary management style of chaebols, for it was claimed that the chaebols restrict the choice of consumers. We are concerned that the rule of "as you please" prevails in the market. If a seller gives the goods to buyers as he pleases and customers have to take them as given to them, this indicates that the market is a 'seller's market,' not a buyer's market and, to such an extent, the sovereignty of the consumers is being undermined. Then, what is our political market like? We can hardly say that it is the buyer's (voter's) market. So, the first step toward the political reform is to convert the political market into the buyer's market.
For this to happen, the most urgent task is to democratize political parties. As every body knows, political parties in Korea have been run by one strong man or centered around a few factional leaders. Under this structure, there is no room to consider the demands from rank and file members or people. It is contended that such a structure was inevitable while political leaders drove the democratization movement. Even though we accept the situational arguments, the existing structure could not be other than necessary evil. Furthermore, since democratization went far enough to replace the government party by electoral competition, the pretext to postpone the democratization of political parties became useless.
A few notable politicians have controlled the political parties and many others served to them as action corps because the political leaders monopolized authority over the party nomination which was vital to the political life of respective politicians. Therefore, the key to democratization of political parties is to give the nominating powers to voters. Of course, reforming the nominating procedure amounts to cutting one's vested interests and it is an extremely difficult task. However, without reforming the nomination procedure, the democratization of the political parties can not be achieved with whatever devices are introduced. It is non-sensical to expect the buyer's (voter's) political market when the political parties are not democratized.
These days, a political party list system is being debated. The political party list system is the electoral system where each political party nominates and ranks its candidates and voters gives their ballots to political parties. Then, the successful candidates are determined by the share of votes given to each political party. Politicians contend that this system will alleviate the regional consciousness and contribute to the national integration. However, the political party list system would not help alleviate the regionalism. As far as political leaders base their political support on particular regions and continue to maintain their factions through the control over the nomination procedure, the current boss system will not be able to affect the regional political party system.
It is true that, as a sort of proportional representation system, the political party list electoral system has the merits of incorporating the diverse social interests into body politics. Yet, it is doubtful if such merits can be exploited under the current system of non-democratic political party management. On the contrary, wouldn't it repeat the problems with the current national constituency system where the president monopolizes his authority over the government party and opposition parties nominate candidates in return for their financial contributions to the political parties?
Many people want clean politics. What is clean politics? It will be the politics which costs less and produces more benefits to people. In other words, what people want is low cost, high efficiency politics.
As it is well-known, Korean politics is that of high cost, low efficiency. Politicians are blamed for their unclean practices and it is not uncommon. Why is it so? Are our politicians genetically more evil-prone than politicians in other countries? That can't be true. It is due to the political structure.
The enormous amount of money necessary in Korea to involvcome of 20,000 dollars. This is understandable if we see the structure of political parties in Korea. If we ask politicians to stop business - politics collusion and reduce the government subsidy while maintaining the existing political structure, we are asking them to quit politics and become civics teachers.
Therefore, it is urgent to reform the high-cost political structure. To reform the current structure, we need to disperse the powers concentrated in the hands of political leaders down the lower level of political parties. Of particular interest is to relax the monopoly power to nominate candidates and transfer power to voters. Only after the drastic democratization of political party is implemented, we will set out to reform the electoral system, reinforce the corruption prevention law and introduce the real name proposal of bills and the roll-call vote system in the legislature.
Hope for the Political Future
In an American politics text, we find a following sentence: "we (the United States) are the country which changed the government by election first time in the world." We can feel the pride of people in their democracy.
As for democracy, we can take pride in ourselves as much as Americans do. We drove for democracy in the circumstances worse than in the U.S. and we changed the government by election within the short period of 50 years after the building of the country.
However, democratization is not completed yet. And, for this reason, we criticize the political world. Our criticism is not sarcastic. We contend that, since we changed the government, now is the time to democratize the political parties. This will be difficult to achieve. Yet, what tasks are so easy to achieve? Was the change of the government easy? Is it easy to overcome the economic crisis? Though the task is not easy to deal with, we have to do what is to be done. The materialization of transparent politics through democratization of political parties and low cost-high efficiency politics will not be easy. But, it is the task we have to achieve. Without it, the change of the government and overcoming of economic crisis will be meaningless. And, this is the task the current government party pledged to implement when it was the opposition party.
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