The main opposition Democratic Party has decided to oppose the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement bill in the June parliamentary plenary session and to urge the government to begin a renegotiation.
In preparation for the June session, which is to kick off Wednesday, DP lawmakers gathered Tuesday in a daily workshop to discuss pending issues.
“We refuse to ratify the current free trade bill, which is the result of an unfair negotiation,” said Jun Byung-hun, the party’s FTA policy committee chairman.
“A re-renegotiation is crucial in order to safeguard our national interest.”
Party leader Sohn Hak-kyu, in his opening speech, also urged the Lee Myung-bak administration to withdraw its hurried decision on the FTA.
Democratic Party leader Sohn Hak-kyu claps during a workshop for party members in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap News)
The Korea-U.S. FTA has emerged as a highly contentious parliamentary issue, following the Korea-EU FTA bill which was passed in a belated special session in early May, after parties failed to reach an agreement in the April plenary session.
The ruling Grand National Party’s plan is to pass the Korea-U.S. FTA bill in late June or early July at the latest, in step with the U.S. Congress.
“The people have reached a general consensus on the necessity of the FTA,” said Nam Kyung-pil, GNP lawmaker and chairman of the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs.
“We expect little trouble in the processes of passing the bill.”
Should the parties fail to pass the bill in the June session, however, the schedule is mostly likely to experience a considerable delay.
“Our goal is to modify the current free trade bill for the interest of our country and of the people, though the processes may take more time,” said the DP leader.
During the workshop sessions, DP lawmakers also pledged to put to vote 41 bills to improve people’s livelihoods, including a college tuition cut bill and free child care and education bills.
They called for the withdrawal of the tax cut plan for the wealthy and also demanded an additional welfare budget, officials said.
In its discussion on the parliamentary probe into the savings banks scandal, the legislators vowed to get to the root of the corrupt back-scratching between the troubled financial institutions and senior government officials.
The party, however, turned down the suggestion made by Busan-based lawmakers in early May to offer full, unconditional compensation for the losses to savings banks’ customers, citing equity reasons.
After the June plenary session, the leading opposition party is scheduled to hold a national convention in early July and select a new party chairman, who will lead the party up to the general and presidential elections next year.
By Bae Hyun-jung (email@example.com