Analysis of the Current Public Conflict Resolution Practices
– Focusing on the National Assembly's Conflict Management Function
December 29, 2016
According to a study conducted by a private research center, the nation's potential economic growth rate has been lowered by 0.3 percentage points mainly due to its higher level of public conflict compared to that of other G7 nations. As such, public conflicts not only hamper social integration but also weaken national competitiveness. In this context, this study analyzes the government's current practices of managing public conflicts created in relation to its proposed public policies and suggests measures which can improve the current practices. In particular, this study examines whether the National Assembly as well as the government can play a critical role in managing public conflicts and proposes policy measures which can help the National Assembly play such a role.
Statistics on public conflicts and case studies on major public conflicts in recent months show that the key culprit that triggers and amplifies conflicts is a failure to establish cooperative governance for their resolution due to the government's one-sided pursuit of a certain public program without consultation, which limits interested parties' participation in the conflict resolution process and, in turn, results in a failure to build trust between the parties. In addition, in the case of public conflicts caused by government policies or programs, the government becomes one of the parties, creating a significant imbalance in negotiation resources and power between the parties. In this regard, the existing government-led conflict management system should be revised.
A close look at the strengths of the National Assembly as a potential key player in the resolution of public conflicts reveals the following:
First, as it is separated from the government, the National Assembly is better positioned to ensure fairness and neutrality. Second, it also has the power and authority to bring the government and other parties related to a conflict to the negotiating table. Third, it has experience and expertise accumulated while hosting meetings to build consensus. However, there are some concerning factors as well. First, if the National Assembly engages in the management of public conflicts, the issues underlying such conflicts would become politically charged, resulting in the escalation of the conflicts. Second, if it fails to maintain a balance of power among the different parties involved in a conflict, its fairness can be damaged. Last, if the underlying issue is subject to a political trade-off regarding other issues, it may become impossible to resolve the conflict.
Based on the above analysis results, this report proposes following legal and institutional measures for improved conflict management. First, a prior public disclosure and consultation process should be introduced before policies or programs are finally determined. This process will allow the citizens affected, experts, and civic groups to sit together and share opinions and concerns, preventing conflict before it happens. Second, legislation on the management of public conflicts should be enacted to build the existing conflict management system into a concrete administrative process. Third, the National Assembly's role in conflict management should be strengthened through its relevant committee. Fourth, in the long term, the National Assembly Act should be revised to create a Permanent Special Committee on Public Conflicts (tentatively named) and authorize it to carry out mediation and arbitration on major public conflicts. Also, an inclusive consultative body can be established to engage National Congress members, parties involved in a conflict, experts, and civic groups in the process of consensus-building through open discussion and debate as shown in the case of the Grand Consultation Body for the Reform of the Government Employee Pension.