Gridlock holds on day set for vote on Sewol bill

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Gridlock holds on day set for vote on Sewol bill

The ruling Saenuri Party and the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) showed no sign of reaching a compromise yesterday and were still far from renegotiating the specifics of a special Sewol law. Yesterday was the date on which the two sides initially agreed to put the special law, which would investigate the primary cause of the April 16 ferry disaster, to a parliamentary vote.

Because a compromise was never reached, a general parliamentary meeting in which lawmakers were scheduled to vote on the law yesterday was canceled. The lack of momentum illustrates the political incapability of the two parties in narrowing their differences to pass the legislation, which was meant to be designed to get to the bottom of the Sewol’s sinking, which left more than 300 people dead.

“Is it tolerable in a civilized society to accept the demand that victims be empowered with the authority to investigate and prosecute suspects?” Saenuri floor leader Lee Wan-koo called out during a party meeting yesterday at the National Assembly, reaffirming his position that it would not accept the main opposition’s demand to empower a fact-finding committee with such power.

“There is not much room for the Saenuri to yield to the NPAD on the terms of the law,” Lee said, while lambasting the opposition for “delaying the passage of pending bills related to the people’s livelihood” and economic revival. “The opposition warned that there would be no passage of pending legislation to improve people’s livelihoods unless the dispute over the Sewol law was resolved.”

The gridlock on the law has continued since the opposition on Monday reneged on an agreement it reached with the Saenuri on Aug. 7.

In last week’s arrangement, both parties agreed that a seven-member recommendation committee would nominate two candidates for a special prosecutor, who would be tasked with overseeing a special investigative team into the ferry crisis. The final candidate would then be appointed by President Park Geun-hye.

On Monday, NPAD Rep. Park Young-sun, the main opposition’s acting chairwoman and floor leader, came out demanding additional points in the law be reworked. Her prior consensus on the nomination process for a special prosecutor last week drew immediate backlash from her fellow lawmakers as well as the relatives of the Sewol ferry victims, who believe a special prosecutor appointed by the president would not be able to avoid pressure or intervention from the Blue House.

Now, the line-up for the recommendation committee has emerged as a key issue in discussions, should the Saenuri choose to go back to talks.

As it stands, three of the seven members on the recommendation committee would come from the Ministry of Justice, the National Court Administration and the Korean Bar Association. Two would come from the Saenuri and two others from the NPAD. The opposition is currently also demanding that it be allowed to send three committee members, which would expand its authority in the selection of the two candidates.

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




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