The Korea Herald


[Herald Interview] Bad bills happen when parties compete for popularity, says seasoned Assembly aide

By Kim Arin

Published : Aug. 2, 2023 - 15:54

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Je Bang-hoon, a senior legislative aide for Rep. Seo Il-jun of the People Power Party (courtesy of Je) Je Bang-hoon, a senior legislative aide for Rep. Seo Il-jun of the People Power Party (courtesy of Je)

When parties are competing for public approval, the outcome is usually rushed bills that backfire with unintended consequences once they take effect as law, according to Je Bang-hoon, a legislative aide of more than 15 years.

“All bills, whether introduced by a lawmaker or submitted by a ministry, come to the Assembly to be considered. Lawmakers author and sign bills, all of whose process is prepared and assisted by aides like myself,” he said in an interview with The Korea Herald.

He said “bad bills” usually happen when lawmakers are coming up with them in a hurry in response to high-profile events or controversies.

“These bills are often thrown around by lawmakers to cater to the high public interest. Parties want to show they’re doing something. But bills motivated by a desire for fame can only be poorly researched and not debated enough.”

In a situation where such bills do end up passing, they often backfire with unintended side effects, he said.

“It’s important to come up with bills and get them passed promptly, but it’s more important to review them thoroughly before they become laws. We have to pause and listen to experts and gather opinions as much as we can.”

Je first set foot in the National Assembly in 2008, not realizing he would stay for more than 15 years.

“I was drawn to the fact that I was able to help legislate and actually enact change,” he said.

Je, who is currently the chief secretary for Rep. Seo Il-jun of the ruling People Power Party, told The Korea Herald that the “best thing” about his job was being able to find legislative solutions to society’s many problems.

He says the most memorable bill he helped a lawmaker author in the 21st Assembly was one providing assistance to small businesses hit by COVID-19.

“Because of where I work, I was allowed to help in ways I can during a disaster like the pandemic and that’s what I find most meaningful about my job.”

While their parties and lawmakers may get caught up in political bickering, aides get along behind the scenes, he said.

“We’re competing and things can get intense sometimes, sure, but we can keep the competition healthy and constructive. At the end of the day, what matters is who can bring a better bill to the table when there is a certain issue,” he said.

Je, who represented the People Power Party legislative aides as the association’s head for a year until July, in 2019 authored a book on the parliamentary audit strategy that became a “must-read” among aides at the Assembly, his colleagues say.

He left the Assembly briefly to serve as an administrator in the Park Geun-hye presidential secretary’s office for a year and a half. He was also part of the Yoon Suk Yeol presidential transition committee’s judicial administration division.