The Korea Herald


National Assembly gets off to rough start

By Yeo Jun-suk

Published : May 30, 2016 - 16:29

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The 20th National Assembly kicked off Monday, with the rival parties streamlining their prioritized legislation initiatives as a start to the crucial four year-term that will include a presidential race next year.

With the opposition bloc securing a parliamentary majority for the first time in 16 years, the parties pledged to devote their attention to improving people’s standard of living by loading up their own legislative agenda for the upcoming session.
The National Assembly (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald) The National Assembly (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)
The ruling Saenuri Party prioritized drafting bills designed to support President Park Geun-hye’s major economic and security initiatives such as business deregulation, labor market overhaul and counterterrorism measures.

The main opposition’s top agenda involves seeking measures to address social issues such as compensating the victims of toxic humidifier disinfectant and the Sewol ferry sinking, and funding of the state-led child care program.

“Since we face many challenges on the economic and security front, I am hoping that (lawmakers in) the 20th National Assembly will devote themselves to improving the people’s lives and serving their interests,” said President Park on Monday in a message released during her visit to Uganda.

But a legislative impasse looms large as the three mainstream parties remain deadlocked over how to assign key parliamentary positons and whether to revisit controversial bills that failed to clear the previous Assembly.

One of the key issues roiling the upcoming parliamentary session is a bill vetoed by the president last week that grants lawmakers the authority to hold parliamentary hearings on a wider range of issues. The rivaling lawmakers’ views clash over whether they can revote on the bill in the new session. 

While the Saenuri Party contends that the bill has been scrapped with the ending of the 19th Assembly, The Minjoo Party of Korea and People’s Party claimed that the bill can still be put to a vote during the upcoming plenary session.

On the first day of the new Assembly, the parties gathered their newly-elected lawmakers to share their main legislative goals and take steps to elect new leaderships.

The Saenuri Party officially endorsed Kim Hee-ok, a former chief of Government Public Ethic Committee, as the chairman of emergency committee.

The party also named a total of nine bills as “major” legislative agenda, including the one designed to address youth unemployment and others related to business deregulation, labor reforms and counterterrorism efforts.
The party had proposed similar legislations during the previous assembly, but failed to get them passed due to the pushback from opposition parties. The opposition parties have again vowed to not budge on their stance during the new term.

The Minjoo Party members, on their part, announced that they would hold a national convention on Aug. 27 to elect their leadership. The new leadership would replace current leader Rep. Kim chong-in who has been serving as an interim chief since January. 

They also vowed to enact bills designed to compensate victims of toxic humidifier disinfectant and the Sewol ferry sinking, and to seek a parliamentary tool to investigate the tragedies and punish those accountable.

Another major bill involves implementing measures to fund the state-led free child care program known as the “Nuri” initiative. The government has said that there is not enough budget to sustain the initiative that targets children aged 3 to 5.

The third-biggest People’s Party, meanwhile, laid out its own legislative agenda including plans to achieve fair economic growth, create jobs for the young people, relive economic disparity and build robust national security.

By Yeo Jun-suk (