The ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy agreed to process the Special Sewol Act on Aug. 13 at a weekly floor leaders’ meeting on Thursday.
The two sides also agreed to establish a special parliamentary committee on human rights issues and general service conditions in the military in the wake of the death of Army Pfc. Yoon. Yoon, a 23-year-old draftee, died in early April from injuries inflicted by senior soldiers.
The Sewol bill, designed to address issues surrounding the April 16 ferry disaster, had kept the two parties in a weekslong gridlock with each side accusing the other of using the tragedy to gain political advantage. The ferry accident left more than 300 people, mostly Danwon High School students, dead or missing. The accident has also prompted an expanding corruption investigation.
In reaching the agreement, the NPAD backed down on its demands for giving the right to appoint the special counsel to the opposition or the families of the victims. The demand, along with that for giving investigative powers to the committee for delving into the cause of the accident, had been a main stumbling block for the two parties.
As a compromise, the parties opted to assign an assistant special counsel to the committee to facilitate cooperation between the committee and the special counsel.
The committee, according to the agreement, will consist of 17 members including the chair. The two parties will each nominate five members, and three will be nominated by the victims’ families. The remainder will be selected by the Supreme Court chief and the head of the Korean Bar Association.
Along with the act, the two sides agreed to hold the parliamentary hearing for investigating the April 16 ferry disaster from Aug. 18-21.
The parties also agreed to pass the bill giving students of Danwon High School favorable treatment in university entrance at the Aug. 13 plenary session.
Aside from the Sewol-related issues, Saenuri Party floor leader Rep. Lee Wan-koo and NPAD emergency committee chair Rep. Park Young-sun said that the parties would work together to pass economic stimulus bills and others aimed at improving the public’s living standards.
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org)