Parties strike last-minute deal on Sewol bill

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Aug 19, 2014 - 21:25
  • Updated : Aug 19, 2014 - 21:25
The ruling and main opposition parties reached a last-minute agreement Tuesday on the so-called special Sewol bill.

In last-minute talks held behind closed doors, Saenuri Party floor leader Rep. Lee Wan-koo and main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy’s interim chief Rep. Park Young-sun hammered out a new compromise.

Under the agreement, the two parties agreed to give the opposition and the families of the Sewol accident victims a bigger say in forming the committee that will nominate the special counsel.

According to the agreement, the ruling party will receive approval from the opposition party and the victim’s families before nominating two committee members. The NPAD will also name two individuals to sit on the committee. 
New Politics Alliance for Democracy interim chief Rep. Park Young-sun (left) and Saenuri Party floor leader Rep. Lee Wan-koo shake hands after announcing the agreement over the “special Sewol bill” at the National Assembly in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

The special counsel, which will ultimately be chosen by the president, will lead an investigation aimed at uncovering the details behind the fatal ferry accident.

The Sewol sank off the coast of Jindo Island, South Jeolla Province, on April 16, leaving more than 300 people dead or missing. Most of the victims were students of Danwon High School in Ansan, Gyeonggi Province.

Although the ruling party and the NPAD had reached an agreement on the issue on Aug. 7, it was put back on the table following strong resistance from opposition lawmakers and families of the Sewol victims.

The renegotiation caused delays in the National Assembly’s operations, leading to a cancellation of the plenary session planned for Monday and a postponement of Tuesday’s session to the late evening.

The NPAD had opposed the ruling party’s proposal, saying that unless the special Sewol bill was processed, other bills including the revision on the Government Organization Act would not be approved. The revision in the Government Organization Act is pivotal to the national reform plans of the Park Geun-hye administration, which plans to introduce a new deputy prime ministerial post to oversee social issues.

The agreement also states that the issue of compensations will be discussed from September. Aside from Sewol-related issues, Lee and Park agreed that pending bills that the two parties’ policy chiefs have agreed on would be processed at the next plenary session.

By Choi He-suk (