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Budget proposal faces delay amid political wrangling

The National Assembly on Tuesday began deliberations on the government's budget proposal for next year, but appeared to make little progress as rival parties clashed over recent political controversies.

The 357.7 trillion won ($337.6 billion) budget plan, drawn up by the government in September, is subject to parliamentary approval.

A total of 11 parliamentary standing committees convened meetings to discuss the proposal, with the remaining committees scheduled to meet later in the week.

However, the parliamentary health and welfare committee could not even begin deliberations as opposition lawmakers boycotted the meeting, demanding the withdrawal of President Park Geun-hye's health minister nominee.

The main opposition Democratic Party has claimed that the nominee, Moon Hyung-pyo, is unfit for the job due to his ethical lapses, specifically in his alleged use of corporate credit cards for personal purposes.

At a meeting of the parliamentary defense committee, the budget proposal took a backseat as rival party lawmakers clashed over a recent scandal over a Catholic priest's controversial sermon on North Korea.

Lawmakers of the ruling Saenuri Party called for a resolution condemning the priest's remarks that they said justified North Korea's 2010 shelling of South Korea's border island of Yeonpyeong.

Opposition party lawmakers dismissed the call, saying the remarks should be seen as an individual's personal opinion.

With the deadline for the budget plan's passage only six days away, the National Assembly is certain to miss that deadline.

However, some have raised concerns that the rival parties could fail to pass the plan by the end of the year if the political standoff continues. The parties have been wrangling for nearly a year over allegations that government bodies, including the state spy agency, helped President Park win last December's presidential election by manipulating public opinion through online posts.

In that case, the government would have to draw up a provisional budget for the first time in its history, a move that could hurt the economy despite its recent signs of recovery.

Ruling party floor leader Choi Kyoung-hwan expressed strong opposition to the possible provisional budget.

"It is time to leave political issues to their own framework and for the National Assembly to carry out its duties by separating the budget proposal and the deliberation of (pending) bills from political issues," he said at a party meeting earlier in the day. (Yonhap News)