DP lawmaker holds up voting at the Assembly

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DP lawmaker holds up voting at the Assembly

The National Assembly’s approval of a revision to the foreign investment bill faced an unexpected hurdle yesterday morning, with Democratic Representative Park Young-sun, who heads the Legislations and Judiciary Committee, refusing to put the bill up for a committee vote until the last minute.

“The restriction on foreign investment promotion was put in place after the country’s economic collapse in the wake of the 1997 financial crisis to prevent chaebol groups from recklessly expanding their business,” the three-term lawmaker said yesterday, adding the revision will “shake the fundamentals” of that safeguard.

The revision of the foreign investment promotion bill allows second-tier subsidiaries of holding companies to establish joint ventures with foreign companies under the eased regulations.Previously under the foreign investment law, when a second-tier subsidiary of a holding company established an affiliate with a foreign company, it was required to hold a 100 percent stake in the venture. This often hindered local companies from establishing joint ventures with foreign companies because they were required to make hefty investments and assume full responsibility independent of their first-tier subsidiary.

The revised bill, however, eases that regulation and allows second-tier subsidiaries to establish an affiliate together with a foreign company holding as little as a 50 percent stake in ownership. This revision will be applied from March.

The government and the Saenuri have claimed the bill will generate 2.3 trillion won ($2.1 billion) in foreign investment and 14,000 new jobs, but some Democratic lawmakers, including Park, countered that the bill would only favor conglomerate companies.

Park’s refusal to put the bill up for a vote at the committee confounded ruling party lawmakers, as well as the leadership of the DP. Earlier in the day, leaders of the two parties had agreed on the passage of the bill as part of a packaged deal.

Democratic Party Chairman Kim Han-gill asked his fellow party members to pass the foreign investment bill at a party meeting at about 9:40 p.m. Tuesday, with the rival parties linking the passage of the foreign investment bill with amendments to the National Intelligence Service Act and the extended tax code for the wealthy.

But faced with Park’s hard-line stance, the two parties agreed to pass reform measures on the prosecution during a provisional session next month. Upon hearing of the agreement on the reform measure, Park - who had insisted she could not put the bill to the vote with her own hands - finally handed over her authority in the committee to Democrat Lee Chun-seok around 2 a.m. yesterday.

Upon taking charge, Lee laid the bill for a vote at the committee, which passed the bill. Following its passage at the committee, the bill was sent for a vote at the Assembly’s regular session. The revision bill was passed with a 168-to-66 vote, with 20 abstaining, at 10 a.m. on New Years’ Day.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]
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