Assembly meets after 29-day delay

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Assembly meets after 29-day delay

The regular session of the National Assembly finally convened yesterday, 29 days after the 100-day session was supposed to kick off - but a rough road lies ahead with the main and opposition parties still fighting furiously on a range of issues.

Lawmakers agreed in the plenary session yesterday afternoon on the general schedule for the remaining session. Urgent issues facing the Assembly will be discussed today, and related government officials will be grilled. Audits and inspections of government offices will be held from Oct. 14 through Nov. 2, and other government officials will face questioning from Nov. 12 through Nov. 18.

In the session to deal with urgent issues scheduled for today, the parties are expected to clash over universal pensions plans and Prosecutor-General Chae Dong-wook’s retirement over allegations he fathered a child out of wedlock.

Twelve lawmakers, including six from the ruling Saenuri Party, five from the opposition Democratic Party and one from minority parties and independent lawmakers, will be assigned to the sessions to grill ministers.

Prime Minister Chung Hong-won, Deputy Prime Minister for the Economy Hyun Oh-seol, Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-an and Welfare Minister Chin Young have been asked by the Assembly to attend.

However, Chin will not be present because President Park Geun-hye accepted his resignation yesterday.

In the general meeting of the Assembly’s Health and Welfare Committee yesterday, the ruling and opposition parties fought over the government’s idea to link the universal basic pension - Park’s campaign pledge to give up to 200,000 won ($186) per month to the elderly - and the national pension when it comes to determining the amount recipients get in their monthly allowance.

The Saenuri and the Welfare Ministry have asserted that even if the amount an individual received under the national pension shrinks, the overall money received from the combined pensions will work out to the same amount.

The DP, however, dubbed this logic “sophistry,” saying the government was trying to deny the “outright fact” that tying the funds together would result in the basic fund being reduced.

The opposition affirmed that they want to produce substantive results from the remaining two months of the regular session. As an initial step, members of respective committees vowed to hold separate meetings yesterday night and to continue discussions at breakfast this morning.

“We will be strictly dealing with a range of issues,” said Jun Byung-hun, floor leader of the opposition party, “from tightening the discipline of government institutions and withdrawing the government plan to reduce taxes on the haves, to legislating bills concerning the creative economy, President Park’s economy-related promises, and history textbook issues.”

Independent Assemblyman Ahn Cheol-soo said he would concentrate on criticizing the Park government and distinguishing himself from both the ruling Saenuri and opposition Democratic parties on major issues.

The National Assembly had been paralyzed for a month as the main opposition Democratic Party protested the National Intelligence Service’s alleged interference in last year’s presidential election and refused to convene the regular session.

The resumption of the session came a week after the party announced it would return to the Assembly, even while carrying on the rallies at Seoul Plaza outside City Hall and conducting protests inside the National Assembly building 24 hours a day.

BY SEO JI-EUN [spring@joongang.co.kr]

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