This month at PSPD
With the citizens’ aspiration and expectation, on May 25th at the Communication Hall of the Parliament House, PSPD suggested the 21st national assembly that 70 legislative and political agendas in the 11 fields. Of those many challenges, this newsletter presents the five urgent matters in order for the 21st national assembly to overcome COVID-19 such as the construction of social safety net, including a possible way to open the national assembly to the public. PSPD is going to keep acting with the citizens so that the 21st national assembly may succeed in legislation reforming.
Guaranteed Unemployment Benefit and Expanded Application for Employment Insurance
Paid Sick Leave and Injury-Disease Benefit
: Amendment in Employment Insurance Act and Labor Standard Act
COVID-19 made society recognize the people in the blind spot on social security. Just like artists, tutors, and designated drivers, non-standard contracted workers around us have been going through without any employment safety net. The government’s guidance tells them to take a day off if they are not feeling well, however, the workers in vulnerable groups live from hand to mouth. This reality does not allow them to take a day off.
In the case of pandemic lasting for a long time, the infectious disease would not be the only factor that undermines the lives of citizens, but the weakened safety net of society would make people suffer. The social safety net should be amended so that the people can be secured from the pandemic and any other risk they might face. Just like the health insurance plan has become a stepping stone for overcoming COVID-19, a better social safety net is in need of implementing.
PSPD urges guaranteed unemployment benefits and expanded application of employment insurance in order for the employment safety net to be enforced. Non-standard contracted workers should be able to have access to employment insurance. In addition, the qualification for unemployment benefits and the days covered by it should be expanded. The national employment support system (unemployment assistant system introduced from the 20th national assembly) embraces the conditions just mentioned. Unemployed people with expired unemployment benefits, self-employed people with closed their business, and inexperienced job seekers may avoid extreme poverty with the amended system. Furthermore, injury-disease benefit needs to be introduced, and paid sick leave should be mandatory by amending the Labor Standard Act.
Eradication of an Industrial Accident and Risky subcontracting
: Amendment in Occupational Safety and Health Act and Legislation of legal punishment for a company responsible for industrial accident
South Korea is on the top rank of the industrial accident death rate among the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries. In 2019, about 2,000 workers died due to industrial accidents. The majority number of workers who died from the Icheon warehouse fire incident were daily workers. This irresponsible accident keeps occurring. Although every industrial accident cannot be removed, the 21st national assembly should clarify who responsible is for industrial accidents and prevent subcontracting.
The act that legally punishes a company for which serious industrial accident is responsible is required. Chonghaejin Marine company, caused the Sewol Ferry incident, was only sentenced approximately 8,000 dollars for a violation of the Marine Environment Management Act that had let the ship oil leak. Many company board members do not heed the alert of industrial accidents and responsibility for safety management because of a slap on the wrist. The company board members and competent officials must acknowledge the fact that they are responsible for the prevention of industrial accidents.
Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) should be also amended to stop dangerous work from being subcontracted. Mr. Kim Yong Kyun’s death triggered the amendment in some parts of OSHA; however, it is only applicable for work handling with chemicals. The range of dangerous work protected from being subcontracted should be increased.
A solution to Economic Inequality and Unstable Housing Environment of the Ordinary People
: Amendment in Comprehensive Real Estate Holding Tax and Housing Lease Protection Act
South Korean society is seriously marginalized by economic inequality; the top 1% possesses about 25% of total property and the top 5% possesses about 50% of the total property. Although COVID-19 has been affecting the nation, housing price seemingly increases. Yet, the aggregate market value of the private real estate to the property holding tax ratio is 0.16% that is less than half of the OECD average, 0.44%. Almost half of the citizens are tenants, and their actual residential period is only 3.4 years. Under the situation that the average cost of moving house per household is more than 1,200 dollars, ordinary people are suffering from an insecure housing environment and the burden of high housing prices.
Comprehensive Real Estate Holding Tax should increase the real estate holding tax ratio. In order to fulfill the plan of government regarding the real estate market announced in the last December, the 20th national assembly was supposed to reform tax before June 01, the tax base date, but it did not. The ratio of real estate tax to GDP is 0.8% and it needs to become nearly 1%, which is the average of OECD, during the 21st national assembly. Moreover, for ordinary people’s secured residential environment, Housing Lease Protection Act should be amended. Except for some specific cases such as overdue rental fee, as long as the tenants are law-abiding, no-time-limit right for renewal housing contract should be introduced for the tenants. In the case of renewing the contract, the rental price ceiling should be also implemented.
Proper installation of the Senior Civil Servant Corruption Investigation and Reforming the Police
: Amendment in the Prosecutors’ Act and the Police Act
Dispersion and reduction of authorities’ rights and democratic regulation have been a long-standing challenge for Korean society. In the final phase of the 20th national assembly, the installation of the High-Ranking Officials’ Corruption Investigation Agency, one of those important goals for reforming the prosecution, and the law adjusting the investigation right between the prosecution and the police have been legislated. Still, the limit of a direct investigation by the police considerably depends on the president, and therefore, it might be expanded depending on an arbitrary decision. Besides, the subjects of SCSCI are possibly overlapped. Authority of the police that has been enforced due to the adjusted investigation right is also a problem. As the police are in direct contact with the citizens’ daily lives, they might restrict and intrude on the basic rights of people.
What the 21st national assembly needs to do is to cooperate with each other for establishing a proper High-Ranking Officials’ Corruption Investigation Agency and not to have it as the means of political dispute. The candidates for the chief of the High-Ranking Officials’ Corruption Investigation Agency should be nominated as soon as possible by creating the recommendation committee. Confirmation hearing focused on making sure the plan for securing independence and justice of investigation and capability should be processed as well. Moreover, the Prosecutor’s Office Act should be amended so that the limit of the prosecution’s’ direct investigation can be clarified. Abolition of the intelligence police and amendment of the Police Act including the Act on the Performance of Duties by Police Officer is necessary.
The National Assembly working hard, Open to the Public, and Transparent
: Amendment in the National Assembly Law
The national assembly has a duty of fulfilling the rights authorized by the citizens; it should be open and functioning without ceasing. A General meeting of the standing committee and subcommittee are also always available. This is why the National Assembly Law needs to be amended. The budget settlement is one of the important functions of the national assembly. However, it handles this important matter with more haste than caution every year. Hence, the national assembly’s finance control should be enhanced by turning the Special Committee on Budget and Accounts into a permanent standing committee. As even smaller group than subcommittee has been examining budget for finance of local constituency, this convention should be eliminated by stipulating in the law. The systematic self-evaluating function of Legislation and Judiciary Committee needs to be transferred to the legislative counseling office. In addition, Legislation and Judiciary Committee should become the judiciary committee and only deal with the matters in charge. PSPD will continuously make an effort so that the 21st national assembly can work for the people.
Just like the national assembly keeps monitoring the administration and speaking out, the national assembly ought to work hard and pay attention to what the citizens say. The voice of the citizens is not evasive. From the perspective of the citizens, the national assembly has been ignoring the people. The citizens are hardly able to meet their representatives at the national assembly, and a subcommittee meeting does not conventionally allow the people to attend though a specific legislative bill is discussed during the meeting. The National Assembly requests the government to reveal information. However, the national assembly is reluctant to share its information with the citizens and does not annually report.
The current requirement of establishment for national consent should be equal or exceed the number of 100,000 people. This requirement is too high to suggest the needs of the citizens. The process of the petition should be feasible and actualized. Also, the people are allowed to have access to the National Assembly if they need to. A meeting at the national assembly should be open to the public; everyone should be able to know how the national assembly is operated. PSPD had revealed the special expense list of the government in 2018, and it led to a reduction or abolition of special expenses in some departments. PSPD will keep watching the national assembly for its transparent operation.
Translated by Park Jae-Min (Volunteer of PSPD)
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