Park’s economy remarks spur debate

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Park’s economy remarks spur debate

A debate flared in the National Assembly yesterday after President Park Geun-hye showed concerns about the legislature’s aggressiveness to push forward her vision of “economic democracy,” as the ruling and opposition parties reacted differently to her remarks.

The ruling Saenuri Party began to slow down its legislative drive to make Park’s vision into law, following Park’s remarks on Monday that the ruling and opposition parties appeared to be going too far to push forward economic democratization.

The opposition Democratic United Party, however, criticized the president for trying to meddle in legislative affairs by issuing guidelines to the ruling party.

One of her main presidential pledges, “economic democratization,” aims to reform the economic structure dominated by conglomerates and reduce disparities in the business community.

“When only populist policies and laws are approved first, actual economic activities will shrink and job creation will be delayed,” said Representative Lee Hahn-koo, the Saenuri floor leader. “If we only make short-sighted, populist approaches, it is hard to revive the economy.”

Lee also said wrongful business practices must be sternly punished, but politicians should support their ordinary activities.

Lee’s remarks came after President Park voiced her concern about the National Assembly’s latest efforts to curb conglomerates’ economic power.

“Some plans on economic democratization being discussed at the standing committee are not part of my election pledge,” Park said at the senior secretariat meeting on Monday.

“They must have been created during the discussions of the ruling and opposition parties, and I am worried that they have gone too far.”

Park’s remarks came as the National Assembly’s National Policy Committee deliberated several bills related to economic democratization, including a bill to revise the Fair Trade Act.

The revision aimed to strengthen punishments on conglomerates for giving favorable treatments to their affiliates when commissioning projects.

The committee already approved a bill last week to make public the annual salaries of top executives of conglomerates in a move to strengthen shareholders’ oversight and heighten transparency.

The business community strongly protested the move, and it remains to be seen if the plan will pass the main session.

Shortly after Park made the comment, speculation quickly arose that Park was moving to give up her pledge for economic democracy.

Kim Haing, presidential spokeswoman, denied the observation Monday evening and stressed that the government will continue implementing related policies.

Representative Park Min-shik, Saenuri’s chief negotiator on the National Policy Committee, said revising the Fair Trade Act is a complicated process and it is premature for some media to report that the ruling and opposition parties have already reached a deal.

Another Saenuri lawmaker, Representative Kim Hack-yong, also supported Representative Park’s comment.

“Economic democratization is, as President Park has said, to systemically end the unfair relationship between the large businesses and small companies,” Kim said. “We must stay away from creating excessive laws that will put a damper on the already struggling economy. It’s like killing a hen for laying an unhealthy egg.”

The liberal opposition Democratic United Party yesterday criticized the president for shying away from conglomerate reform and attempting to influence the legislature.

“Park’s remarks showed that she was abandoning or retreating from her key presidential pledge of economic democratization,” said Representative Jung Sung-ho, spokesman of the DUP.

“President Park’s comment on the National Assembly’s discussion is an infringement upon lawmakers’ legislative rights. Is she saying that the National Assembly must approve her pledge as it is without a single modification?”


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

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