Assembly’s last chance comes today

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Assembly’s last chance comes today

The National Assembly will have perhaps its last opportunity to pass a bunch of stalled, controversial bills today as the floor leaders of the ruling and opposition parties agreed to open a voting session this afternoon.

The ruling Saenuri Party and the largest opposition Democratic United Party originally planned a plenary session last week to deliberate and possibly approve about 60 bills, including one to prevent violence breaking out in legislative sessions. The meeting, however, failed to open after some Saenuri lawmakers protested the planned revision of the National Assembly Act.

“The revision plan was discussed for the past two years,” Representative Hwang Woo-yea, the floor leader of the ruling party, said at a party meeting yesterday. “It is desirable to approve it at the upcoming session.”

Hwang’s term as floor leader ends on Friday, and the DUP will also elect its new floor leader that day. If bills are not passed today, the National Assembly will unlikely have an opportunity to arrange a voting session before the lawmakers’ current term ends May 31.

The obstacle in opening a voting session has been the bill to stop violence in the National Assembly, which is supposed to be handled in a fast-track manner. The two sides reached an agreement on the issue last month, but some lawmakers in the Saenuri Party belatedly challenged the agreement. Then, Hwang presented a compromise and the DUP accepted it.

According to the compromise, a bill pending at a Legislative and Judiciary Committee for more than 120 days can be sent to a voting session when the ruling and opposition parties’ chief negotiators on the committee - or more than three-fifths of the committee members - make a request to forward it. The voting at the main session will then take place after an agreement of the floor leaders or by a majority vote of the lawmakers.

Because the fast-track method will create a new rule for the legislature’s operations in the next term, slated to open June 1, the ruling and opposition parties have reacted sensitively to it. The Saenuri Party won 152 seats in the 300-member National Assembly in the April 11 legislative elections, but two of its lawmakers-elect quit the party recently over a sex scandal and plagiarism accusation.

While Hwang’s compromise was accepted by the DUP, some in the Saenuri Party still protested it as of yesterday. The Saenuri Party will decide its position by holding a lawmakers’ assembly in the morning before the plenary session opens this afternoon.

Today’s session will also deliberate 59 other bills including: a measure to allow supermarkets and convenience stores to sell over-the-counter drugs like cold medicines and aspirin; a bill to allow the 112 police call center to track down mobile phone locations; and a bill that provides legal grounds for the maritime authority to crack down on illegal foreign fishing boats inside Korea’s exclusive economic zones.

Four public servants were injured Monday after they boarded a Chinese vessel suspected of illegally operating inside Korean waters off of South Jeolla. The Korea Coast Guard seized the ship and nine sailors.

In December last year, a Coast Guard officer was stabbed to death by a Chinese captain during a raid.


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