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Nuclear safety bill astray

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Published : 2014-03-23 20:47
Updated : 2014-03-23 20:47

The outlook for bills aimed at bolstering nuclear safety remains murky despite a public appeal from the prime minister and the impending opening of the Nuclear Security Summit at The Hague.

In 2012, Korea vowed to pass bills for protecting nuclear facilities and preventing nuclear terrorism before the third summit. However, the National Assembly has so far failed to process them over differences on a string of unrelated bills.

The main opposition Democratic Party has resisted the ruling Saenuri Party’s attempts to push the nuclear bills through, demanding that they should be processed along with other bills, including revisions to the Broadcasting Act.

Although the two parties had agreed to pass the Broadcasting Act revisions, the ruling party backtracked on the issue, citing concerns that some of the new measures would damage broadcasters’ independence.

To pass the bills, the ruling party convened an extraordinary session of the National Assembly unilaterally last week without any results.

The DP countered the move by suggesting a “one-shot, one-point” parliamentary session in which all outstanding bills would be processed, but this was rejected.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Chung Hong-won called for the bills to be processed, saying that they must be passed even if immediately before the summit’s opening as the matter was linked to “international relationships of trust,” reiterating his statement from Saturday.

In the statement, Chung publicly appealed to the political parties to resolve the issue before President Park Geun-hye’s speech in The Hague. The summit is set to begin late Monday, Korea time, and the president will give a speech in the opening session.

“Nuclear safety and nuclear security are not a domestic political issue but a matter of world peace. It is not an issue for factional negotiations within the political arena,” Chung said.

Despite a rare public appeal from the prime minister, and the leaders of the two parties reportedly holding undisclosed meetings, there are few signs that the issue will be resolved.

At Friday’s general meeting DP floor leader Rep. Jun Byung-hun reiterated the party’s position and accused the ruling party of incompetence.

On Sunday, DP spokesman Rep. Park Soo-hyun went a step further, calling for Chung’s resignation and accusing him of “threatening the people and the opposition party.”

“Prime Minister Chung Hong-won taking responsibility and resigning would be the right thing to do,” Park said.

“President Park Geun-hye should dismiss the prime minister and concerned ministers for endangering global nuclear security through their incompetence and irresponsibility.”

The ruling party is also stepping up its attack.

“(The situation) is a step away from becoming a humiliation for the country, and from national prestige plummeting. The New Politics Alliance for Democracy has no right to use the term ‘new politics,’” Saenuri Party floor spokesman Rep. Hong Ji-man said Sunday. “New Politics Alliance for Democracy” is the name the DP and independent Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo have chosen for the party they will launch on Wednesday.

Accusing the opposition party of focusing only on its own gains, Hong called for the DP’s cooperation.

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)

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