Rival parties began reviewing the government’s budget plans on Wednesday, following an agreement the day before on processing reforms of the intelligence agency and election process.
But the interparty feud, which has brought the National Assembly to a halt on several occasions this year, appears to be far from over as they still differ on the matter of launching a special counsel investigation into the National Intelligence Service’s alleged election meddling.
After both parties made significant concessions in reaching the agreement Tuesday, which include passing the budget bill within the year, their leaders have come under fire from hardliners on both sides.
“This is sacrificing the country’s central intelligence organization to process the budget and other (issues). This is a crime,” chief of the parliamentary intelligence committee Rep. Suh Sang-kee of the Saenuri Party said, calling on the party’s leadership to reconsider.
“The special committee we agreed to is not a special committee on reform, but a special committee for the incapacitation of the NIS.”
Senior Saenuri Party lawmakers, including chairman Rep. Hwang Woo-yea, reassured the critics, saying that the leadership had a “determined will” to prevent the special committee from undermining national security.
In contrast, the bone of contention for the DP’s hardliners is the party leaders’ decision to back down on the special counsel investigation.
Although DP leaders say that inclusion of the clause for continuing related discussions is an achievement in itself, hardliners opened fire, saying that there was no “collateral” for the promise.
While the main opposition adopted a resolution calling on the Saenuri Party to agree to the special investigation, the impact of the DP’s concession on the issue appears to be spreading.
The DP leaders’ failure to bring about an agreement on the investigation has riled participants of the pan-opposition association the party formed last month.
“A special counsel investigation on election meddling by state organizations is a public desire, and a solemn promise the DP made to the public,” the association said in a statement on Wednesday.
Launched on Nov. 12, the association includes the Progressive Justice Party, independent lawmaker Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo, the Catholic Priests’ Association for Justice and other nongovernmental organizations.
Under the agreement, a special committee for reforming the National Intelligence Service will be launched, headed by a DP lawmaker. The committee will also be given authority to process bills concerning the issue. In addition, a special committee for political reform will also be introduced.
The agreement also stipulates that the parties will continue discussions about the timing and scope of a possible special counsel investigation into the National Intelligence Service.
The two sides also agreed on a key agenda for the committee, including tougher measures to prevent spy agents from interfering in politics and elections, and enhancing the NIS’s capabilities for fighting terrorism, North Korea and cyber-attacks.
The political reform committee will largely deal with the rules for local elections. They tentatively agree to ban political parties from nominating candidates for elections for governors and councilors in low-level administrative units. The panel will be headed by a Saenuri member.
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com