“I feel deeply sorry and pained by the failure of politicians to fulfill our obligations to protect the lives and safety of the people,” said Kim Hangyu, a first-term lawmaker of the Democratic Party of Korea who was elected to represent Jeju City during the by-elections held last June, recalling the recent Itaewon Halloween crowd crush. He argued that politicians should have put their utmost effort into predicting and preventing such negligence and they should have alerted and supervised the administrative authorities in advance.
Q. How would you describe your feelings about engaging in the recent parliamentary inspection for the first time, after being elected in the by-elections in June?
A. I felt like it was not worth preparing for. As it was my first inspection as a member of the National Assembly, I prepared a lot for it. Since I was previously a practicing lawyer, I was keen on issues in every nook and corner of society. At this inspection, I intended to bring the public clear answers to these issues I had learned about. But it didn’t bring it into the media limelight, unfortunately. The reason why is simply because these issues didn’t cover what is in the public interest, I assumed. Personally, my priorities include Jeju Island, livelihoods and the national economy. I investigated the current administration’s decisions on removing the entire budget related to haenyeo; and downsizing and merging supporting committees of the Jeju province. My district deserves more than this and the administration should have treated it properly. The price of chicken, one of the most loved foods to enjoy while eating out, has jumped recently. I pointed out the price hike resulted in bringing revenues for big franchise brands at the expense of franchisees and consumers. Given the short time limits of the parliamentary inspection, it is critical to allocate enough time to ask if preventive or corrective measures are properly imposed.
Q. Among the issues discussed in the parliamentary inspection, what were your priorities, personally?
A. The rehabilitation process for Gangwon Jungdo Development Corporation announced by the governor of Gangwon Province, Kim Jin-tae, has rattled the bond market big time. The announcement, Gov. Kim’s attempt to save a mere 205 billion Korean won ($157.2 million), resulted in undermining trust in the financial market. Even with the aggressive investment of 50 trillion Korean won the financial authorities announced recently to make to ease the situation, the capital market still remains frozen. The Golden Time for the financial authorities is also missed. The countermeasures that follow up 3 weeks after the liquidity crunch occurred are still insufficient to stabilize the market.
Q. You are also a member of the Assembly’s Gender Equality and Family Committee. How do you see the President’s pledge to abolish the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family?
A. I cannot agree with the idea of politically motivated change that causes nothing but buzz. For any newly-selected administration, the key to successfully running the country is to keep the current governmental organizations and their composition as they are and to coordinate them well to make the best results. I do think shutting down the Ministry, simply because it was one of the President’s pledges, is not the right thing to do. As there are many like-minded lawmakers in the opposition party, it will be tough for the proposal to pass the Assembly, I believe.
Q. Jeju is one of the most popular wellness destinations for international tourists. As a lawmaker representing the island, how would you describe the future of Jeju -- what would it look like?
A. For outsiders, Jeju is just one of the tourist destinations, but for us, the island is our home, a place where we make a living. Delivering a rich quality of life for the residents can sustain offering high quality tourism experiences. Every year, more than 10 million tourists from home and abroad flock to visit the island. They also bring with them concerns over collateral problems, such as environmental pollution and lack of infrastructure. So, my job is to ensure Jeju residents enjoy their life while living on the island as well as to make the island the best tourist destination in the world. And I will do my best to do my job well.
Q. I was told that you communicate actively with the local residents
A. Since last July, my Public Service Center, called Jeju Han-Q PCS, has been in place. Han-Q is actually my nickname. Through the center, I meet Jeju people in person to talk about a wide range of issues, from nuisances in the community to political issues. One report I received through the center was that some online shopping malls or TV home shopping programs choose not to deliver to Jeju. As a member of the Assembly, I formally requested the Minister of Economy and Finance to take action to correct it. I once worked with the local police to install speed cameras in a remote area which saw an increase in the number of car accidents. It feels really great to help make change for the people of Jeju, however small they are.
Q. What is your vision as a politician?
A. At times like now, what it takes to be a good politician is to be responsible and accountable as well as capable and competent, instead of just being young and passionate. Reform isn’t a matter of generations, or ideologically right or left. It is also not a matter of seeking a new face. It is a matter of political parties exhibiting collective intelligence and being capable of being equipped with responsibility and competence – or a matter of the parties being in the process of developing these traits, or a matter of the parties having a will to develop these. Reform would be far-off if politicians tend to avoid facing problems in the moment. The reason why I stick to the things that require steady and persistent efforts, even if it doesn’t look like it is performing well in the short term, is my personal goal of being a trustworthy politician with a proven record of responsibility and capability.
By Yang Jung-won (firstname.lastname@example.org)