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Parties to attempt last-minute compromise on Sewol bill

South Korea’s major parties will attempt to finish up negotiations over the special Sewol bill and other key proposals including the overhaul of the Coast Guard on Friday. 

National Assembly sources say the parties have almost reached an agreement on the special Sewol bill, but they continue to hold different views on reorganizing the Coast Guard and the nation’s emergency response infrastructure.

With parties eager to finish talks, however, a final agreement appears likely by Friday or, if delayed, early next week, key aides to senior lawmakers said.

The parties had previously agreed to pass the Sewol bill and Coast Guard reform legislation all at once, instead of passing the bills individually.

The governing Saenuri Party and the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy have been under fire for failing to pass other bills in the past months due to their extended bickering over the Sewol bill.

The parties earlier agreed to finish the negotiations on the Sewol bill by the end of the month.

The special Sewol bill will authorize an investigation into the government for allegedly failing to conduct proper rescue operations during the April 16 Sewol ferry disaster. More than 300 were killed, with nine bodies yet to be recovered.

The Coast Guard has been taking much of the blame, with President Park Geun-hye telling a national audience in May that she would disband the maritime law enforcement body.

Controversy over the decision has raged, with opponents of the envisioned reform plan saying Park’s decision is rash as the Coast Guard serves various functions.

During recent parliamentary debates, lawmakers have been considering incorporating the Coast Guard into a new national emergency response ministry with the National Emergency Management Agency.

By Jeong Hunny