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Rival parties to vote on North Korea rights bill

Rival parties agreed Saturday to put a set of bills on North Korean human rights and corporate revitalization to a full-floor vote this week, ending a months-long dispute which had crippled the legislative procedures.

They, however, failed to reach a final consensus on other disputed bills, such as those on terrorism prevention and labor reform bills as well as the revision bill to redraw the nation’s electoral map ahead of the April general elections.

The floor leaders of the Saenuri Party and The Minjoo Party hold talks on pending bills on Saturday. (Yonhap)
The floor leaders of the Saenuri Party and The Minjoo Party hold talks on pending bills on Saturday. (Yonhap)
In an emergency meeting held late on Saturday, the senior members of the ruling Saenuri Party and the Minjoo Party of Korea agreed to put the two bills to a vote in the parliamentary plenary session on Friday. The meeting was attended by the floor leader, vice floor leader and policy committee chief of both parties.

“The plenary session will be held at 2 p.m. on Jan. 29 to vote on the corporate revitalization bill and the North Korean human rights bill,” Reps. Kim Yong-nam and Lee Un-ju, respectively floor spokesperson of the ruling and the main opposition party, said jointly.

The revitalization bill, dubbed the “one-shot bill,” involves offering restructuring support to insolvent companies, allowing them an easier business reshuffling process.

The opposition camp had been demanding that conglomerates be excluded from this benefit, citing possible abuse, but recently yielded on the claim in a compromising gesture.

The North Korean human rights bill calls for efforts to raise the international society’s awareness on the abusive human rights situation in the communist state and to ensure that humanitarian aid is not diverted to other uses.

It reflects the concerns that the North Korean regime has been misusing outside relief supplies for the sake of its military.

The bill has been pending at the National Assembly since June 2012, with the ruling party advocating its necessity and the opposition party claiming that it may provoke North Korea.

In exchange for the compromise that the opposition made on the one-shot bill, the ruling party agreed to include an inter-Korean peace promotion clause, as suggested by Minjoo Party.

Whether or not the parties will pass these two bills is yet uncertain but the consensus to put them to a full vote was at least taken as a positive sign in the long-stalled partisan relationship.

But aside from this partial achievement, parties still face hurdles when it comes to the rest of the pending bills.

Representatives of the leading parties once again met on Sunday afternoon to seek for solutions on the terrorism prevention bill, labor reform bills and the election law revision bill to redraw the nation’s electoral map.

The most controversial issue was the four labor-related bills, over which the government and labor circles conflicted further.

While President Park Geun-hye advocated a national petition campaign to urge for the passage of the disputed bills, an umbrella labor union walked out of the trilateral talks with the government and management.

Conflicts worsened as the Labor Ministry on Friday announced a set of administrative guidelines that allow companies to lay off underperforming employees and to change employment regulations without the employees’ consent.

As for the constituency restructuring, parties had earlier agreed on a plan to allocate 253 seats to regional representatives and 47 to proportional ones, but are still at odds on whether or not to put the bill into the same basket as the economic and labor bills.

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

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