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Debate over P.M. overshadows Assembly

Rival parties are expected to continue their partisan fights in the June extraordinary session over President Park Geun-hye’s choice of new prime minister amid pending reform bills posing a challenge to the upcoming session.

The National Assembly is to start a 30-day extraordinary session on Thursday, which would include a confirmation hearing on Prime Minister nominee Hwang Kyo-ahn to test whether he is qualified for the nation’s No. 2 post. Lawmakers are also expected to lock horns over Park’s reform bills, which have remained stalled for months, as well as the controversial passage of a government decree over the Sewol probe.

The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy has pledged a “thorough” screening of Hwang and pending bills, but the ruling Saenuri Party has vowed to block the NPAD’s attempts to “undermine” the legislative process.

Lawmakers are expected to wrangle over the scope and authority of a bill that gave them the right to demand an amendment to the government enforcement decree of the special Sewol bill. The decree stipulates that a number of public officials will be a part of an independent probe into the Sewol ferry sinking in April 2014.

According to the revised bill, however, lawmakers are authorized to “demand” changes to a decree issued by the executive branch.

The government has expressed objection to the law, saying that it would violate the rule of separation of powers.

The Saenuri Party has also vowed to complete the parliament’s evaluation of the prime minister as early as possible in the upcoming session to end an administrative impasse. The post has remained vacant for more than a month since former Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo stepped down under political pressure over his involvement in a bribery scandal.

Hwang, the incumbent justice minister, was named the new prime minister late last month. President Park selected Hwang for the post, calling him “the best one for delivering national unity and accomplishing an administrative overhaul.”

The NPAD, however, has vowed to take as much time as necessary to determine whether Hwang is the best fit for the premiership. The party has alleged that Hwang failed to report his use of business allowances to the authorities and has made politically and religiously biased remarks.

“Hwang should be held accountable for the allegations against him,“ NPAD spokesperson Park Soo-hyun said Sunday. “Ever since Hwang was nominated, a series of allegations has surfaced and the public has demanded answers from him. Yet, he has refused to explain himself.”

With dozens of bills pending at parliament, rival parties are expected to continue their legislative tug-of-war over economic-related bills, including a list of draft laws aiming to legalize crowdfunding, to allow large corporations to engage in subcontracting and to foster tourism and the medical industry.

President Park and the Saenuri Party accused the NPAD of blocking the passage of the bills, saying they would boost the economy and create jobs.

“The bills will do nothing but good for our nation,” said President Park last Wednesday.

“It is not the National Assembly’s job to block young Koreans from getting help and creating their own companies. I believe the legislature’s job is to pass good bills as soon as possible,” said Park.

The NPAD, however, asserted that the party would determine whether the bills would bring expected economic benefits to the nation, refuting the president’s allegations that the party has been blocking legislation of the bills.

“We will determine whether the bill is in the interest of the people,” said Park. “The president and Saenuri Party will continue to make their case for economic benefits, but we will make sure to find out exactly whether the bills are truly for the people,” said Park.

By Yeo Jun-suk (