Pass the defense reform bill

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Pass the defense reform bill

The last meeting of the National Defense Committee of the 18th National Assembly is scheduled to be held tomorrow afternoon. The committee plans to have a public hearing on a bill written to relocate air bases and pass it right away.

Proposed by several lawmakers, including Kim Jin-pyo and Kim Dong-cheol from the main opposition Democratic United Party and Yoo Seong-min from the ruling Saenuri Party, the bill is aimed at addressing complaints from residents in the legislators’ constituencies - Suwon, Daegu and Gwangju, respectively. The bill entrusts the Ministry of National Defense with the responsibility to relocate air bases in these places to other parts of the country.

The bill was supposed to be put to a vote at a defense committee meeting on Feb. 12, but was rejected by Won Yoo-chul, the committee chairman and a legislator from the Saenuri Party, on the grounds that it is difficult to settle such complaints while the more crucial National Defense Reform Bill is still pending in the Assembly despite overwhelming public support. More than 70 percent of Koreans support it, according to a poll.

Representatives Kim Dong-sung and Kim Ok-lee from the Saenuri Party, too, strongly called for the swift passage of the defense reform bill after North Korea’s surprise attacks on the Cheonan warship and Yeonpyeong Island.

The Ministry of National Defense is putting pressure on the committee members to vote on the bill tomorrow, convinced that this is the last chance to push it through. But the bill is still caught in a deadlock due to vehement opposition from Shin Hak-yong, chairman of the Legislation and Judiciary Subcommittee under the National Defense Committee.

As such, the only way left is for Saenuri Party lawmaker Won Yoo-chul to submit it to the National Defense Committee by using his privilege as the committee chairman.

At the moment, at least 11 of the 17 members on the National Defense Committee, including Park Sang-cheon, a lawmaker from the DUP, support the defense reform bill. And the bill will surely be passed in a plenary session of the Assembly, too.

We urge lawmakers to railroad the bill using Won’s authority and submit it to the plenary session next Tuesday. DUP lawmaker Shin Hak-yong must stop abusing his position to find supposed faults with legal aspects of the bill, especially amid the ever-growing military threat from North Korea.
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