Assembly panels to resume work

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Assembly panels to resume work

The functioning of the National Assembly has ground almost to a halt as legislative attention remains focused on the detention of Representative Lee Seok-ki and others accused of aiding North Korea, but the ruling and largest opposition parties agreed yesterday to try to get things back to normal.

The Assembly should have been hard at work in its regular session since Sept. 2, but has not yet held a plenary session other than the one where it approved the withdrawal of parliamentary immunity from Lee.

The Democratic Party, which is also focused on its canvas-covered campaign to call the National Intelligence Service to task, agreed with the Saenuri Party yesterday that three of the Assembly’s committees should get back to work. They also promised to keep their vigil in a tent in front of Seoul City Hall until the NIS is reformed.

The Democrats’ resistance to date has also meant that no schedule for the plenary session has been agreed. They want their complaints about the NIS to be heard. They have not determined a detailed schedule of the session because of DP foot-dragging. The party wants the Assembly to first wrap up the matter of NIS meddling in the election and to clean house at the agency.

Saenuri has been rumbling about holding an Assembly session with or without the Democrats, which may have played in the latter’s agreement to allow three of the Assembly’s 18 committees to go back to work. The committees are connected with what the politicians say is urgent work, including the import of Japanese fish products and the central government’s level of funding for free child care in Seoul.

Two committees - the Land Infrastructure and Transport Committee and the Agriculture, Food, Rural Affairs, Oceans and Fisheries Committee - will resume work today. The land committee will address the high and rising levels of lump-sum (jeonse) housing lease prices and allegations of bribery in the government’s four-river restoration project.

The agriculture committee will deal with procedures to conclude a free trade pact with China and whether to ban the import of all Japanese fish.

The Strategy and Finance Committee will convene on Friday to discuss child care funding and revisions of tax policy.

The Democrats have three demands to settle the alleged interference in the election: a formal apology from President Park Geun-hye, the resignation of the NIS chief, Nam Jae-joon, who was appointed by the president this year, and reforms at the agency.

From their tent headquarters, they are demanding a one-on-one meeting between their chairman, Kim Han-gill, and the president. Saenuri has rebuffed all those requests, saying among other things that the president had no part in any scandal that may have occurred during the previous administration.

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