NATIONAL

New opposition chief vows flexibility in Sewol bill talks

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Sept 19, 2014 - 21:08
  • Updated : Sept 21, 2014 - 10:33

The new interim chief of South Korea’s main opposition party on Friday said the party should be more flexible in its talks with the ruling party over the special Sewol bill, suggesting the parliamentary deadlock could be broken in the coming weeks.

Rep. Moon Hee-sang of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy rose to the party’s top post on Thursday, and will serve until next year’s party convention. The veteran lawmaker replaced Rep. Park Young-sun, who stepped down after failing to achieve a breakthrough on the special Sewol bill. Critics had accused Park of being too rigid in negotiations with the ruling Saenuri Party.

Moon’s comments on Friday implied that the NPAD’s platform regarding the bill could become less stringent, sources said, and help create an endgame to the current impasse.

“We can no longer ask the bereaved families for their full agreement to any new deal we reach with the Saenuri Party,” Moon said earlier in the day. “We must merely ask for their cooperation.”

The special Sewol bill aims to set up probes into the government over its failed rescue operations during the Sewol tragedy.

The parties have disagreed on how much prosecutorial power to give any investigation panel formed through the special bill, with the main opposition party and families of the victims asking for more legal authority.

Victims’ families rejected two bipartisan agreements in August, saying lawmakers’ drafts of the special bill did not guarantee sufficient investigative powers.

On Friday, Moon hinted he could begin new talks with Saenuri Party chair Rep. Kim Moo-sung as early as next Monday.

“All I have to do is go over to Mr. Kim’s office. He’s in the same building,” he said.

But it appears unlikely the NPAD will reorganize itself in time for the scheduled full parliamentary meeting next Friday, according to a mid-level NPAD official. Other sources have agreed with the outlook, indicating the impasse will continue.

NPAD spokesperson Rep. Park Beom-kye said later Friday, “There is no reason parliamentary audits of the government must begin on Oct. 1.”

Oct. 1 is the date set by National Assembly Speaker Rep. Chung Eui-hwa on Tuesday for the audits, amid growing public outrage over the ongoing parliamentary standoff.

The main opposition party’s reorganization process is expected to take some time. Although Moon was elected to serve as the party’s interim chief, he has yet to select members of a leadership committee that will serve as the NPAD’s decision-making apparatus.

By Jeong Hunny (hj257@heraldcorp.com)