President returning to Assembly for speech

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President returning to Assembly for speech

President Park Geun-hye will deliver an address at the National Assembly tomorrow to explain her budget plans for the coming year and seek bipartisan support for economic growth initiatives, according to the Blue House yesterday.

Park is set to become the first Korean president to give a parliamentary speech for two years in a row, deviating from the tradition of having the prime minister read the speech on the president’s behalf.

She is expected to ask for parliamentary cooperation on her policy priorities including reform of the deficit-ridden pension system for government workers, the budget for 2015, as well as the passage of tax and other bills related to economic resuscitation.

She might also urge lawmakers to ratify free trade agreements with Australia and Canada.

“The president’s upcoming speech is meaningful in that she will be fulfilling a promise she made before and showing she respects the National Assembly and the people, thus preventing potential conflicts with lawmakers,” said presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook in a briefing yesterday. “Also meaningful is the fact that President Park has broken from the practice of the prime minister reading the speech for the president.”

As a token of respect to the members of parliament, Presidential Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon and Cho Yoon-sun, senior presidential secretary for political affairs, will join tea time between the president and the chiefs of each party, Min said.

Last year, Park addressed the parliament on Nov. 18. Her predecessors, after speaking in front of lawmakers in their first year, usually had their prime ministers do the duty from the following year.

Park vowed during her speech last year to “create a new political culture” of asking for cooperation from lawmakers by delivering speeches every time a regular session of the assembly takes place.

Prior to the speech scheduled for 10 a.m., the president will arrive at the Assembly building to meet separately with the chiefs of the main and opposition parties, according to sources within the ruling Saenuri Party.

Her meeting with Saenuri leader Kim Moo-sung will draw attention because it will be the first since he made headlines for his Oct. 16 remarks advocating a constitutional amendment, which Park is against. He reversed his stance the following day and apologized to the president.

Park and Kim also have different views on the timing of the pension system overhaul for state employees. Whereas Kim said seeing the reform actually take place is more important than its timing, the presidential office made it clear it wants to see a reform bill passed by the year’s end.

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