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Park advocates petition campaign on labor bills

Stepping up the pressure upon the National Assembly to pass the pending labor reform bills, President Park Geun-hye repeated her calls for the nation on Tuesday to participate in a petition campaign led by economic organizations.

In response to the growing criticism that her participation infringed upon the legislature’s independence, the president claimed that the petition was the last resort to save the economy and to boost employment.

President Park Geun-hye presides over the Cabinet meeting at Cheong Wa Dae, Tuesday. (Yonhap)
President Park Geun-hye presides over the Cabinet meeting at Cheong Wa Dae, Tuesday. (Yonhap)

“Companies, whether conglomerates or small and medium-sized firms, have repeatedly appealed for the passage of the pending bills, but the National Assembly has neglected their needs,” Park said at the Cabinet meeting.

“Would these businessmen and people have rushed out to the streets on this severe winter day (for the petition) if not for these pressing situations?”
The president had joined the petition campaign Monday after receiving the annual business reports and before delivering her New Year’s greeting to the Korea Federation of SMEs.

Led by 38 economic bodies, including the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Federation of Korean Industries and the Korea International Trade Association, the campaign seeks to gather 10 million signatures asking for the passage of the labor bills.

The president’s move was seen as a last-minute effort to whip up public opinion as the Federation of Korea Trade Unions, in opposition to the labor bills, has hinted at withdrawing from the labor-management-government trilateral deal on Tuesday afternoon.

The main opposition the Minjoo Party of Korea, which has been blocking the bills citing employment instability, denounced the president for detouring due legislative procedure and siding with the conglomerates by joining their initiative.

“The president is entitled to extensive legal power, yet Park decided to sign a petition instead of communicating and debating the issue,” said the party’s policy committee chief Rep. Rhee Mok-hee.

“We hope that such a bewildering situation will not happen again during Park’s remaining two years in office.”

The ruling Saenuri Party reiterated the president’s comments.

“The petition would never have been necessary, had the National Assembly performed its role in the first place,” floor leader Rep. Won Yoo-chul told reporters Tuesday.

“Our party, too, is to be held responsible just as much as the opposition party.”

The presidential office shrugged off the opposition camp’s blame.

“Signing the petition was a gesture of participating in the people’s initiative, not an act of disregard towards the legislature,” Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson Jeong Yeon-guk told reporters.

Meanwhile, the government, the presidential house and the ruling party agreed Tuesday to go to all efforts to pass the pending labor bills through parliament within January.

“The opposition camp is deterring key economic bills and labor reform by adding unessential requests,” said Saenuri floor leader Won at the policy adjustment meeting held at the prime minister’s office.

By Bae Hyun-jung (