Democratic Party floor leader Rep. Jun Byung-hun speaks during a meeting with the party members at the National Assembly on Monday. (Yonhap)
Rival parties failed to reach a deal on ratifying bills aimed at strengthening nuclear safety before the opening of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague on Monday.
Floor leaders of the rival parties held talks in a last-ditch effort to pass the bills on Monday afternoon, a few hours before Park was to attend the summit. But the two failed to strike a compromise over the bill as the main opposition Democratic Party resisted the ruling party’s attempts to push the bills through, reiterating its earlier demands.
The Park Geun-hye government has been locked in a battle with the main opposition Democratic Party, which insisted that it would approve the bill only if the ruling Saenuri Party agreed to pass other bills, including revisions to the Broadcasting Act.
The Saenuri Party went all out on Monday afternoon to press the DP before President Park’s speech at the opening session of the nuclear summit, set to begin late Monday, Korean time. President Park was to give a speech about Korea’s efforts in bolstering nuclear safety in front of global leaders. But if the rival parties failed to approve the pending nuke bill, the country would lose its chance to demonstrate its efforts to rid the world of nuclear weapons, government officials said.
“The DP leadership doesn’t care about (Korea’s reputation) in the international community, national interests, national security and the public’s interests. It only cares about how the minority hard-liners in the party respond,” Saenuri floor leader Choi Kyung-hwan said during a supreme council meeting held earlier in the day.
“The opposition party is only playing chicken by linking the nuke bill with the revisions of the broadcasting act, which also have nothing to do with (improving) the people’s livelihood,” he added.
The opposition party stepped up its pressure on the Saenuri Party to accept its demand to break the impasse. The DP has been countering Saenuri’s arguments, saying the ruling party backtracked on the issue. The two parties had previously agreed to pass the Broadcasting Act revisions, which ensure a fairer representation of employees on program committees at broadcasters, including cable TV channel operators. The Saenuri Party recently changed its stance, citing concerns that some of the new measures would damage broadcasters’ neutrality.
“If the nuke bills are important for the president to save face, (the Saenuri) has no reason not to process the revisions to the broadcasting act and bills to improve the people’s livelihood,” DP floor leader Rep. Jun Byung-hun said.
“The reason why the nuke bill is not being processed is because the Saenuri is biting off both the revisions to the broadcasting act and other bills,” he said.
Opposition lawmakers also claimed that it was the ruling party that held the key to resolving the issue, not the DP.
“As the ruling and opposition parties agreed before, we could all pass the pending bills at once. It is Saenuri that is refusing to pass the nuke bill,” said Rep. Yoo Seung-hee, who heads the sub-parliamentary committee on broadcasting, science and technology.