Ruling and opposition parties have locked horns over allegations that late President Roh Moo-hyun may have disavowed South Korea's sea border with North Korea and suspicions that the country's spy agency interfered in last year's presidential race, which have cast shadows over the National Assembly's stated goal of looking after the welfare of the people and pushing for reforms, political observers said Sunday.
Originally the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) had been pushing to pass bills in June's extra session of parliament to ban lawmakers from holding separate jobs and reform their pension system, as well as make headway on economic democratization that can curb the power of the country's conglomerates.
"At present the two sides are maintaining the hard-line stance and showing no signs of making concessions that will certainly hold up parliamentary proceedings," a political observer said.
On the Northern Limit Line (NLL) issue that the Saenuri Party claims effectively undermined Seoul's sea demarcation line and put its security at risk, the ruling camp is calling for the immediate and complete release of related information and a parliamentary probe.
The NLL drawn right after the Korean War (1950-53) is viewed in the South as the de facto sea border between the two Koreas, but the North has challenged this, resulting in numerous bloody clashes in the Yellow Sea. Saenuri has been alleging before last year's presidential election that Roh took North Korea's side on this important issue at the 2007 summit meeting held in Pyongyang.
The opposition, on the other hand, categorically refuted claims related to the NLL and said that if Saenuri wants to open the issue, it must first accept a probe into suspicions that the National Intelligence Service (NIS) interfered in the presidential race by ordering its agents to attack the opposition candidate by posting negative comments on popular on-line communities. The DP
pointed out that such measures are illegal and could have influenced the election process.
Saenuri said that it can consider accepting a probe, yet insisted that state prosecutor get a chance to investigate claims that the DP violated the human rights of a female NIS agent who posted attacks against the opposition on the Internet by preventing her from leaving her home. The party also argued that an investigation is needed to see if the DP got information on the NIS' activities by bribing a former agent with promises of promotion if its candidate Moon Jae-in had won the race.
Saenuri spokeswoman Min Hyun-joo said in a phone interview with Yonhap News Agency that the probe being demanded by the opposition can only be carried out after all ongoing investigations on the NIS are touched on by the state prosecutors. She said Saenuri wants the records on Roh's statement made at the summit meeting to be disclosed to the public.
Under South Korean law, records in the presidential archive cannot be opened unless two-thirds of the country's 300 lawmakers agree or in other extraordinary circumstances.
In response, Rep. Bae Jae-jeung, the spokeswoman for the DP, said the NIS parliamentary probe must take place first. She said that the NLL issue is a ploy by the ruling party to deflect negative public attention from the spy agency scandal.
With the two sides unlikely to alter their views and make concessions, many observers said the likelihood that the lawmakers take care of bills that directly affect the lives of people or advance political reforms may not be realized in the present parliamentary session that ends on July 2. (Yonhap News)