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Lawmakers end Assembly standoff

Timetable delays votes on most-contentious bills two days before session ends   PLAY AUDIO

Jan 07,2009
Officials from the National Assembly secretariat check computers in the legislative body’s main chamber yesterday after Democratic Party lawmakers ended their 12-day occupation. [YONHAP]

The National Assembly returned to normalcy yesterday after warring lawmakers agreed on a legislative timetable to bring contentious bills to the Assembly floor.

After opposition lawmakers ended their 12-day occupation of the legislature’s main chamber earlier in the day, negotiators from warring political parties sat down at 3 p.m. to decide when and how to vote on sensitive bills including media reform measures, ratification of the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement and deregulation proposals for the financial industry.

A timetable was agreed upon by floor leaders from the Grand National Party, the Democratic Party and an alliance of the Liberty Forward and Creative Korea parties yesterday evening, but votes on hotly contested bills were largely postponed to a February session or no deadline was set.

A 10-point agreement was announced yesterday evening.

Of the eight bills related to media industry reform, the ruling and opposition parties agreed to deliberate and vote on two less-sensitive measures, including changes to the law governing media arbitration, by tomorrow, the last day of the session.

The negotiators, however, set no deadline for the six bills linked to cross-media ownership. They agreed that before the six can be voted on, political parties must try to reach a consensus on any changes.

The three negotiators also agreed that bills to allow nonfinancial companies to own businesses in the financial industry will be introduced to the National Assembly for deliberation tomorrow. While imposing no deadline for a vote, the lawmakers agreed that they must try to reach a consensus before voting on the changes.

The negotiators also agreed to introduce a bill to abolish the ceiling for conglomerates’ investments in their affiliates for deliberation by a standing committee tomorrow. A vote should take place during the February session, they agreed.

Ratification of the U.S.-Korea free trade agreement was delayed until sometime after U.S. President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration.

The three negotiation blocs also agreed that a special committee on political reform should be established to revise election law. The possibility of giving suffrage to Koreans living overseas will be discussed. The Grand National Party will chair the 22-member special committee. The negotiators agreed that the committee’s mandate will expire on Jan. 31, and the matter must be voted on during the February session.

The Grand National leadership accepted the timetable, but the party will hold a general meeting of its lawmakers at a later date to officially endorse the deal. The Democratic Party said its lawmakers will meet today to endorse the agreement.

“I apologize to the nation for causing trouble,” GNP floor leader Hong Joon-pyo said yesterday. “I will do my best to uphold the principles of democracy and agreement at the National Assembly.”

His counterpart in the Democratic Party, Won Hye-young, was also remorseful. “This was an opportunity to confirm that the legislature must be operated based on agreements among the ruling and opposition parties,” he said.

Of the list of 85 urgent bills that the GNP wanted to push through, negotiators agreed that 58 less-sensitive measures should be deliberated and voted on before the end of the current session.

While previous negotiations on the sensitive bills had broken down repeatedly, signs of progress were seen throughout the day yesterday. The legislative and judiciary committee resumed work, and its lawmakers deliberated 49 less-contentious bills.


By Ser Myo-ja Staff Reporter [myoja@joongang.co.kr]








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