Leaders of rival parties made separate visits to welfare centers, train stations and fire stations on the eve of the Chuseok Thanksgiving holiday, as part of efforts to win back public trust that seems to have been lost due to the protracted political standoff over the special Sewol bill.
Since May, not a single bill has been put to a vote during the parliament’s plenary session. The National Assembly’s regular session kicked off on Sept. 1, but the outlook for the 100-day session remains bleak due to the worsening political standoff. The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy has been partially boycotting the legislation of bills to protest the ruling Saenuri Party’s stance on the special Sewol bill. The bill is designed to launch an independent probe into the Sewol ferry disaster in April. Victims’ families are demanding lawmakers grant them investigative power equivalent to those of prosecutorial authorities, and allow them to take part in the probe. The ruling party has opposed the demands.
The main opposition party and the victims’ families have also urged President Park Geun-hye to intervene and end the deadlock. But her office, Cheong Wa Dae, has repeatedly turned down the request, saying that the matter is for the political parties to discuss, not her.
Saenuri Party chairman Kim Moo-sung visited a welfare center in Incheon to encourage ethnic Koreans from Sakhalin, Russia, while the party’s floor leader Rep. Lee Wan-koo met firefighters in Yongsan, central Seoul, to thank them for their services.
NPAD interim and floor leader Rep. Park Young-sun also visited Yongsan Station to meet travelers heading to their hometowns and to continue to press the ruling party and the government over the Sewol bill.
“President Park Geun-hye has urged the lifting of regulations in a bold move, but what she really has to do now is resolve (the political) deadlock over the special Sewol bill,” Park said.
“I want to tell her that the place she has to visit ahead of the Chuseok holiday is Gwanghwamun, (near) Cheong Wa Dae,” she added. The main opposition party and families of Sewol victims have been protesting against the ruling party and the government at Gwanghwamun, just a block away from the presidential office.
Despite the opposition’s demand, President Park visited a local marketplace in eastern Seoul on Friday afternoon, as part of her efforts to check on people’s livelihoods ahead of Chuseok.
Earlier in the day, the president posted on her Facebook account that she would do her best to revive the nation’s economy and make the nation a better place to live in. She avoided any reference to the Sewol controversy.
By Cho Chung-un (firstname.lastname@example.org)