Floor leaders from the ruling and opposition parties on Monday agreed to hold weekly meetings to discuss an array of outstanding government reform plans that the rival parties are expected to clash over at parliament’s extraordinary session this month.
The meetings are an attempt to minimize partisan battles in the National Assembly, with hopes that legislators will pass proposed anticorruption bills, conduct the Sewol investigations and finalize government restructure plans before parliament’s regular session in September.
“I welcome Rep. Park’s proposition for the two of us to hold regular meetings every Monday,” Rep. Lee Wan-koo of the ruling Saenuri Party said, as Rep. Park Young-sun of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy thanked Lee for his “quick response” to her proposal.
|New Politics Alliance for Democracy floor leader Rep. Park Young-sun (left) shakes hands with her Saenuri Party counterpart Rep. Lee Wan-koo before their meeting to discuss the agenda of the June extraordinary session at the National Assembly’s reception house on Monday. (Lee Gil-dong/The Korea Herald)|
Monday’s agreement came after Park proposed on Sunday to hold regular talks between the opposition and ruling parties’ respective floor leaders.
The so-called Kim Young-ran bill, named after the former Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission chief who proposed it, is expected to be prioritized in legislative discussions as it has already gained bipartisan support.
If passed, the law would charge public officials and their families with criminal offenses regardless of the circumstances if they accept 1 million won ($980) or more from private interest groups. Family members of officials would also be barred from holding jobs that may cause a conflict of interest.
The bill has drawn keen public attention as government officials with collusive ties with private firms are under fire for their loose oversight over ferry operators before the Sewol sinking.
Policymakers are debating over related clauses such as who would be counted as a family member of a public servant. There are also concerns that the bill may encroach on the basic rights of choosing a job, as it would prohibit public officials’ kin from entering any line of work considered a conflict of interest.
The bill could also violate a constitutional provision prohibiting guilt by association.
Parliament’s Sewol investigations are expected to be even more contentious, with the Saenuri Party hesitant to hold witness hearings before the July 30 by-elections that will allocate the 12 vacant parliamentary seats. The opposition could grab a majority if they win all 12 races.
The NPAD is pressuring the ruling party to bring in senior officials such as Presidential Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon and Yoo Jeong-bok, the former Minister of Security and Public Administration and current Incheon mayor-elect, as witnesses to the Sewol hearings.
Other hot-button issues awaiting parliament include disagreements over President Park’s government restructuring plans, such as a blueprint to disassemble the Coast Guard for the agency’s perceived unsatisfactory conduct during the Sewol rescue operations.
“(Dismantling the Coast Guard) is a decision that requires much discussion,” Rep. Cho Jeong-sik of the NPAD said at a press conference on Sunday. “Diagnosing our current rescue operation capabilities and determining the exact causes (of the Sewol disaster) are priorities.”
Reps. Lee and Park on Monday also failed to agree on whether to turn the Intelligence Committee and the Special Committee on Budget & Accounts into standing parliamentary panels.
By Jeong Hunny (firstname.lastname@example.org)