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Rival parties square off on economy, NIS

Korea’s rival parties are expected to face off in the opening parliamentary session this week over the passage of economic, medical and tourism bills aimed to boost the economy.

The parties are slated to sit in for the plenary session this Wednesday to vote on the bills that were delayed in the previous session due to partisan differences.

The bills include ways to expand the scope of the service industry to education and medical fields to alleviate regulations and expand tax support, and to ease regulations to allow construction of tourism facilities near schools.

The National Assembly. (Yonhap)
The National Assembly. (Yonhap)

Labeling the package as a step to reviving the nation’s sluggish economy, the ruling Saenuri Party has been pushing for the swift passage of the bills, arguing that the legislation would create job opportunities for the youth whose unemployment rate has worsened.

“No matter how hard it is, we will push for the passage. Our party will play a leading role in realizing the president’s initiative to jump-start economy,” said Saenuri chairman Kim Moo-sung, echoing President Park Geun-hye’s speech last Friday urging lawmakers to promptly sign the bills into legislation.

But the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy called the bills a “false” promise and dismissed them as favors to those who already have vested interests in medical and tourism industry. The NPAD argued that the move would widen disparity between the haves and have-nots.

“(The Saenuri Party) seems to be telling us that passing the bills would revive the economy. It is not the case. We believe it would worsen disparity in the medical industry and run the risk of leading to the privatization of public health care,” NPAD floor spokesman Rep. Park Soo-hyun said.

Meanwhile, other conventional issues will continue to dominate already jam-packed August extraordinary parliamentary session agenda. Lawmakers will hold parliamentary committees this Monday and Wednesday to continue their debate over the spy agency’s hacking scandal.

Having failed to hold a meeting at the National Intelligence Service last Thursday, rival parties will question the government officials about the allegation that the NIS had used hacking program to wiretap the public and engage in civil surveillance.

While the Saenuri Party urges the opponent to stop inflating ungrounded allegation that might compromise national security, the NPAD accuses the NIS of denying access to “critical” information that they believe sheds lights on escalating scandal.

On other political fronts, rival parties are expected to butt heads over the rules on the upcoming 2016 general election. With the NPAD proposing to change the current parliamentary representation, the ruling Saenuri Party rejected the plan, citing it would inevitably increase the number of lawmakers.

With the deadline for the rule set for Thursday, rival parties agreed to discuss the issue in the relevant committee. But considering that the issue would impact the next election, it is widely expected that rival parties will fail to reach a compromise unless both parties’ leaders agree.

By Yeo Jun-suk (