An extraordinary parliamentary session begins Monday, but it appears likely to be marked by more political wrangling between the two main parties.
Among the outstanding issues, the basic pension for seniors and the candidate nomination system for local elections are likely to be the main stumbling blocks, despite previous agreements between the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition Democratic Party.
Under the agreement reached by the parties’ floor leaders, a committee of ruling and opposition party members and the health minister will be set up to resolve the pension issue this month.
However, with both sides having dug in their heels on the issue for some time, a quick resolution appears unlikely.
The ruling party supports the government’s plan to provide a monthly pension of between 100,000 won ($92) and 200,000 won to the poorest 70 percent of seniors.
In contrast, the DP insists that the full 200,000 won should be provided to all seniors, as pledged by the president. However, it has drawn up an alternative proposal to start by offering 200,000 won per month to those in the bottom 70 percent by income.
The two sides also appear unwilling to compromise on the candidate nomination system, another one of the president’s key election pledges.
The DP calls for complete abolishment, while the ruling party has raised a number of alternatives including holding open primary elections, saying that scrapping the system could be unconstitutional.
In addition, interparty friction is likely to be aggravated by issues surrounding the data security breach at local credit card companies during the 26-day National Assembly session.
The National Policy Committee will begin a parliamentary investigation into the development, while other concerned committees would begin the process of legislating acts designed to prevent similar occurrences.
While the concerned committees focus on developing preventive measures, the two parties are expected to clash over how to punish the companies, and over Finance Minister Hyun Oh-seok.
Hyun came under fire from the opposition bloc on Jan. 22, after a comment on the credit card data leak, in which he said that consumers had agreed to the companies’ data handling clauses. The remark was taken as partially blaming the public for the developments.
Despite Hyun’s repeated apologies, the opposition bloc has called for his to removal. With President Park Geun-hye effectively rejecting this demand, DP floor leader Rep. Jun Byung-hun turned up the heat, saying that he would consider proposing a motion for his dismissal during the February session.
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org)