The outgoing ruling and opposition parties on Monday agreed to open an extraordinary session from this week in their last-ditch efforts to tend to pending bills, most of which are expected to be automatically discarded.
The monthlong parliamentary session will be open from Thursday to May 20 with two plenary sessions to vote on the bills in early and mid-May, the parties and the Assembly secretariat said.
The decision came after floor leaders of the three main parties had a meeting with Assembly Speaker Chung Ui-hwa.
National Assembly Speaker Chung Ui-hwa (second from left) poses with floor leaders Rep. Won Yoo-chul (from left) of the Saenuri Party, Lee Jong-kul of The Minjoo Party of Korea and Rep. Joo Seung-yong of the People’s Party at his office on Monday. (Yonhap)
“Each party will select a number of bills that it believes must be passed, related to citizens’ lives and revitalizing the economy. The parties’ vice floor leaders will hold working-level negotiations on the matter,” said Rep. Joo Seung-Yong, floor leader of the third-largest People’s Party.
The outlook, however, remains bleak for the parties to reach a major breakthrough as the parties remain at odds over the pending bills.
At the center of the tug-of-war is the bundle of reform bills pushed by the Saenuri Party to execute the administration’s economic drive, namely in the labor sector to fast-track economic revitalization.
The originally five-point labor reform was revised to exclude one on temporary workers after fierce rejection by the opposition and the labor unions, but it remains a hotly disputed plan.
The proponents of the bill said that it will help create jobs, but critics argue that it will lead to an increase in temporary and nonregular workers. Rival parties in particular have failed to see eye-to-eye on expanding the sector where nonregular workers will be able to work.
Finance Minister and Saenuri lawmaker Yoo Il-ho told reporters that he will try to persuade both lawmakers from all parties to pass the disputed bills before the 20th National Assembly commences in June.
He said that maintaining Park’s economic reform drive is critical to maintain the international community’s trust in the Korean economy.
But the Minjoo, which will become the majority party in the 20th Assembly with 123 out of 300 parliamentary seats, said that the election results show people’s discontent toward the reforms.
“The people’s assessment of the ‘malicious’ labor reform bills is that they will create temporary workers and to allow easy lay-offs,” said the Minjoo floor leader Rep. Lee Jong-kul. “The opposition must step up as the people have already spoken (at the election).”
Of the 17,757 bills registered at the National Assembly, 10,074 remains pending.
The parties also remain at loggerheads over the Basic Act on the Development of the Service Industry, which provides basis for financial support and deregulation in the service sector but also includes medicine and education that have been provided largely at the public level.
Another disputed bill is the National Assembly Advancement Act that mandates at least 60 percent of the lawmakers to agree on a contested bill for it to be passed.
Assembly Speaker Chung, who presided the meeting, suggested that the lawmakers should discuss the act. In January, he proposed a revised version that requires consent of just half of the lawmakers.
By Yoon Min-sik (email@example.com