The Korea Herald


Sewol, tax hikes likely to top parliamentary audit agenda

By Korea Herald

Published : Oct. 6, 2014 - 20:57

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The parliamentary audit of state agencies will begin Tuesday with the Sewol ferry disaster and a number of tax hike plans likely to take center stage.

A key issue during the 20-day audit, which will subject a record 672 organizations to parliamentary scrutiny, is expected to be the Sewol ferry disaster. The 6,825-ton ferry sank off the country’s southwestern coast on April 16, leaving more than 300 people dead or missing.

Critics argue that the government’s poor initial response to the disaster contributed to the high death toll.

After months of wrangling, the ruling and main opposition parties agreed last week on the terms of a bill aimed at determining the truth behind the tragedy. The victims’ families, however, rejected the bipartisan deal on the grounds that it failed to ensure an unrestricted investigation.

The rival parties have set the deadline for the bill’s passage for the end of this month.

Another controversial issue is the government’s plan to raise the price of cigarettes by 2,000 won ($1.87) per pack, an increase of about 80 percent from the current average price of 2,500 won, starting next year.

The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy is to use the audit to attack the government’s economic policies.

“(The Park Geun-hye administration) has been cutting high earners’ taxes and deregulating indiscriminately. The president’s economic views have always been ‘julpoosae,’” Rep. Chung Sye-kyun, a five-term lawmaker on the NPAD’s emergency committee, said.

The term “julpoosae” is the short form of a Korean phrase meaning downscaling the government, easing regulations and upholding the rule of law, which the conservatives have been pushing for since the Lee Myung-bak administration.

Adding that such policies cannot create jobs or stimulate the domestic economy, Chung called on the party to focus on dismantling such government plans.

“The parliamentary audit starts tomorrow. (The NPAD) must unveil the truth behind and resist ‘julpoosae’ and defend the people’s livelihoods.”

In addition to these key issues, over which the main parties are expected to clash, the audit itself has been surrounded by controversy and criticism since long before it got underway. The two main parties had agreed to hold the parliamentary audit on two separate sessions to analyze the agencies more thoroughly. However, the plans were thrown into disarray due to the gridlock over the special Sewol bill, raising concerns that the audit will be conducted in a haphazard manner.

By Choi He-suk and news reports