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DP threatens Assembly boycott over TV fee rise

The National Assembly’s June provisional session schedule faced a sudden halt as the main opposition Democratic Party pledged to boycott the ruling Grand National Party’s decision to increase a public broadcaster’s monthly viewing fee.

The parliamentary committee on culture, sports, tourism, broadcast and communication held a subcommittee meeting on Monday and passed the revision bill to raise the monthly viewing fee from 2,500 won to 3,500 won ($3).

The meeting was chaired by Rep. Han Sun-kyo, GNP lawmaker and former announcer, while DP lawmakers vetoed the plan.

“Once again, the ruling party pushed ahead with its plan, just as it did with last year’s budget bill,” said DP chairman Sohn Hak-kyu in the party’s general meeting held on Tuesday morning.

“The GNP should first call off the viewing fee raise and apologize, or else inter-party communication will be impossible in any of the standing committees.”
Lawmakers of the main opposition Democratic Party oppose the passing of a bill on increasing monthly viewing fees of KBS, the country’s major public broadcaster, at the National Assembly in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yang Dong-chul/The Korea Herald)
Lawmakers of the main opposition Democratic Party oppose the passing of a bill on increasing monthly viewing fees of KBS, the country’s major public broadcaster, at the National Assembly in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yang Dong-chul/The Korea Herald)

The opposition party’s floor leader Kim Jin-pyo also said pending issues, such as investigation into savings banks, university tuition cuts and supplementary budget bill, may only be discussed after the GNP shows its sincerity in the dispute over KBS viewing fee.

“The viewing fee increase is similar to a tax hike and should be examined more cautiously,” said Rep. Kim Jae-yun of the DP.

“The public broadcaster should also prove itself to be sufficiently qualified before forcing the increased fees on the people.”

The ruling party, however, blamed the DP for neglecting its parliamentary duties and demanded that the parties focus on dealing with urgent pending issues before the end of the June provisional session.

“Our primary goal is to draw a conclusion to the matters which directly affect the lives of ordinary people,” said the GNP floor leader and acting chairman Hwang Woo-yea.

“The DP should attend the remaining committee meetings in order to solve inter-party disputes, not boycott them.”

Rep. Kim Jung-hoon accused the opposition camp of holding the public’s interest hostage in order to have its way.

Rep. Hwang also explained that the party had no intention of pushing the fee raise.

“It is just that the subcommittee could no longer delay the vote,” he said.

“The issue, though it was passed by the subcommittee, is yet to be further reviewed, so opposition members may attend the culture committee’s general meeting and the parliament’s regular session to voice their opinion.”

Rep. Han, who chaired the subcommittee meeting, also claimed that sufficient answers were made to the DP lawmakers’ questions before the bill was put to a vote.

In February, this year, the state media regulator, Korea Communications Commission, approved KBS’ request to raise its viewing fees, though some of its commissioners opposed it.

Most of the revenue, according to KBS, will be spent on revamping networks and its high-definition infrastructure, especially as all television broadcasts will be digital system from 2013.

By Bae Hyun-jung (tellme@heraldcorp.com)
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