Battle over Aug. Assembly session already begins

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Battle over Aug. Assembly session already begins

With two weeks left before an August session, war clouds loomed over the National Assembly as the ruling and opposition parties engaged in fierce disputes over several sensitive political issues.

The ruling Grand National Party and the main opposition Democratic Party have negotiated a list of witnesses to testify during the assembly’s investigation into the massive savings bank corruption scandal. The negotiations were supposed to wrap up over the weekend, but the two sides failed to reach agreement.

While the GNP has asked seven DP lawmakers, including floor leader Kim Jin-pyo and former floor leader Park Jie-won, to submit to the probe, the DP has demanded top government and ruling party officials testify as well.

The Democrats wanted to call Representative Lee Sang-deuk, elder brother of President Lee Myung-bak, new GNP Chairman Hong Joon-pyo, justice minister-nominee Kwon Jae-jin and the younger brother of former GNP Chairwoman Park Geun-hye.

The GNP and DP attempted a final negotiation yesterday morning, but couldn’t even meet because they were so far apart in their demands.

The DP said its seven lawmakers will cooperate with the investigation, and demand the GNP accede to its wishes.

The GNP rejected their demand. “This is not a POW exchange,” said Representative Cha Myeong-jin. “The Democrats are trying to drown us by insisting on witnesses groundlessly.”

The GNP also filed a defamation suit against DP Representative Ooh Che-chang for saying that a Samhwa Mutual Savings Bank slush fund was used to finance the ruling party’s chairmanship elections this year and last.

While hearings in the investigation are scheduled for Aug. 5, 8 and 9, it remains unclear if the two parties will be able to agree on the list of witnesses in time. Site inspections and verification of evidence were to take place this week, but the deadlocked witness negotiation hindered the process.

A special committee on the probe is scheduled to meet today to approve a list of 60 witnesses that have been agreed to, but the DP is refusing to give partial approval.

In addition to the witness debate, the GNP and DP are also at odds over votes of sensitive bills and confirmation hearings of senior law enforcement officials.

The Democrats are demanding that the August session address the tuition cut issue and the Hanjin Heavy Industries strike in Busan, calling them “urgent livelihood issues.” The DP said it has no reason to cooperate with the GNP to open the August session unless the ruling party agrees to discuss those issues, and has threatened to boycott the session.

At the end of the June session, the GNP and DP agreed to open an extra session of the legislature starting Aug. 1 to review and vote on major issues, including urgent livelihood issues.

The Democrats also said confirmation hearings of justice minister nominee Kwon Jae-jin and prosecutor general nominee Han Sang-dae should be rescheduled to be held at least one week apart in order to allow lawmakers time to scrutinize their qualifications.

President Lee Myung-bak is expected to send the confirmation hearing applications to the assembly today.

The Democrats also criticized the Grand Nationals for trying to push forward sensitive bills, including the ratification motion for the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. During his meeting with National Assembly Speaker Park Hee-tae on Friday, GNP Chairman Hong hinted at the possibility of the party using its majority to ram through ratification.

Such railroading of bills by the majority party usually prompts physical violence in the assembly by the opposition and is unpopular with the public.

“You should make a bold decision in August so that we can work smoothly,” Hong told Park at the meeting, prompting suspicion that the GNP was trying to persuade Park to use his power to introduce the ratification motion for a voting session.

The Lee government and the GNP have scheduled a policy coordination meeting for Thursday to be led by Hong, Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik and Blue House chief of staff Yim Tae-hee. Policies beneficial to the working-class along with the Korea-U.S. FTA ratification will be discussed.

The government selected 56 bills it wanted to get through the legislature this year. Of them, 36 were passed in the June session and 22 remain.

By Ser Myo-ja []

한글 관련 기사 [연합]
8월국회 전운…여야, 벌써부터 기싸움

8월 임시국회가 보름 가량 남았지만 여야는 벌써부터 치열한 기싸움을 벌이며 한바탕 격돌을 예고하고 있다.

저축은행 국정조사특위가 증인 채택문제로 파행 조짐을 보이고 있는 것 외에도 여야가 대학 등록금 인하, 인사청문회, 한미 자유무역협정(FTA) 비준 동의안 등 휘발성 강한 안건의 처리 문제를 놓고 마찰을 빚고 있기 때문이다.

민주당은 아예 8월 국회 무용론까지 꺼내들었다. 8월 국회를 소집한 이유인 반값 등록금 논의를 한나라당이 거부하고 있다는 이유에서다.

노영민 원내 수석부대표는 "8월 국회의 전제조건은 반값 등록금 관련 5개 법안 심사를 7월중에 상임위에서 한다는 것"이라며 "한나라당이 여야 간사협의조차 거부하고 있어 8월 국회 소집의 목적이 소멸된 상황"이라고 주장했다.

민주당은 청와대가 권재진 법무장관, 한상대 검찰총장 내정자를 동시에 발표한 것이 국회의 철저한 인사청문회를 약화하려는 의도가 담긴 것이라고 보고 충분한 시간적 간격을 둔 청문회 일정 조율을 요구했다.

박영선 정책위의장은 "법무장관과 검찰총장 인사를 한꺼번에 한 사례가 거의 없는 것같다"며 "청문회를 제대로 하려면 청문회 간격을 일주일 이상은 둬야 한다"고 말했다.

한나라당은 반값 등록금과 관련한 민주당의 주장 자체가 사실과 다르다고 반박했다. 민주당이 7월중 반값등록금 '논의'가 아닌 '합의'라는 무리한 조건을 내걸고 있어 오히려 논의 진전의 걸림돌로 작용하고 있다는 것이다.

국회 교육과학기술위 한나라당 간사인 서상기 의원은 "민주당이 터무니없는 요구를 해놓은 뒤 논의가 안된다는 이유로 8월 국회를 안하겠다는 것은 뒤집어씌우기"라며 "우리는 언제든지 법안을 논의할 준비가 돼 있다"고 말했다.

황우여 원내대표도 이날 최고위원회의에서 "의견이 일부 불합치하지만 한나라당은 7월 상임위를 활발히 열자는 의견인 것을 확인했다"고 강조했다.

인사청문회의 분산 개최에 대해서는 협상의 여지를 남겼다. 황 원내대표는 연합뉴스와의 통화에서 "일정은 민주당과 한 번 협의해봐야 한다"고 말했다.

한미FTA 비준동의안, 북한인권법, KBS 수신료 인상안 처리 문제도 만만치 않다.

한나라당은 최근 최고위-정책위원회 연석 워크숍에서 이들 안건을 8월 중 처리키로 의견을 모을 정도로 적극적인 태도를 보이고 있지만 민주당이 반대 입장을 고수하고 있기 때문이다.
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