Motions pass for two committees

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Motions pass for two committees

The National Assembly yesterday approved motions in separate voting procedures to install two special committees under the legislature that will each be devoted to reforming the National Intelligence Service and the nation’s political system.

The move comes two days after the ruling Saenuri Party and opposition Democratic Party finally reached a compromise, in which they agreed to form the two special committees as a precondition for halting the long-standing deadlock at the Assembly’s regular session, which is set to wrap up on Tuesday.

The DP has long argued that a committee to improve the transparency and neutrality of the NIS is necessary, particularly after the spy agency’s alleged interference in last year’s election campaign, in which it was accused of conducting an online smear campaign against Democratic candidate Moon Jae-in. Moon is currently an opposition lawmaker. The Democrats have also demanded a major overhaul of the NIS.

The Saenuri did not accept the Democrats’ demand to allow the prosecution to launch an independent counsel investigation into the spy agency; however, both parties vowed to “continue discussing when to hold the special investigation, and the scope of the probe.”

Under the motion passed yesterday, the NIS reform committee will have the right to review and pass bills. It will be operational through February 2014.

It will consist of seven lawmakers from each party and be headed by Representative Chung Se-kyun, a fifth-term Democratic lawmaker.

“I feel an immense historical responsibility,” Chung said in a statement after being selected. “I think turning the NIS into an agency that citizens can rely on, rather than one they fear, is the task of the times.”

Of 243 voters, 198 voted for the motion for the committee to pass. Seven voted against it and 29 abstained.

The special committee has set a goal to legislate a range of bills by the end of the year. Those will include proposals to upgrade the National Assembly Intelligence Committee to a standing committee; boost control of the NIS’s budget; and strengthen the level of punishment for public servants who intervene in political activities.

The political reform special committee, which will operate through the end of January 2014, will mainly discuss ways to improve the election system in local governments.

The committee will be made up of 18 lawmakers, with half coming from the Saenuri Party and the other half from the Democratic Party.

Saenuri Representative Joo Ho-young, who is in his third term, will head the committee.

Meanwhile, the defense committee of the Assembly approved a motion yesterday for dispatching up to 540 troops to the Philippines to help with relief efforts in the aftermath of the deadly Typhoon Haiyan. The soldiers will be sent for a year from the end of 2013; it will be up to the Korean government to decide to advance their mission or let them return.

Korea announced its plans last month to send troops, which included doctors, engineers and other supporting forces, to Tacloban, the city most devastated by the storm. The cost of the deployment is estimated to be 32 billion won ($33 million).

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