Reps meet deadline on Sewol legislation package
Floor leaders of the ruling and opposition parties sat down for a showdown over a package of bills to investigate the deadly sinking of the ferry Sewol and came to an agreement early last night.
Both parties agreed to push ahead with a trio of bills related to the April 16th tragedy.
It took 199 days for the lawmakers to agree on terms for a special investigation demanded by the families of the tragedy’s victims.
The floor leaders, their deputies and chief policymakers of the Saenuri Party and the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy started negotiations around 5 p.m. and the outcome was announced at 8:30 p.m.
Yesterday was the self-imposed deadline by the National Assembly to approve a package of three contentious bills linked to the Sewol crisis.
After more than 300 people, including many high school students, were killed in the ferry sinking, lawmakers promised to conduct a special investigation into the sinking and the government’s botched rescue efforts. They also sponsored plans to restructure the government in order to better cope with such national crises.
The first bill is on the special Sewol investigation and the second is about restructuring the government.
The third bill, named after Yoo Byung-eun, the late patriarch of the family that owned the Sewol ferry, aims at punishing people who conceal financial gains made through crimes.
The ruling and opposition parties said the National Assembly will vote on the three bills on Friday.
The two sides narrowed down differences on how to conduct a special investigation into the disaster.
The head of a committee to recommend independent counsel candidates will have to be backed by relatives of the victims of the tragedy. The two sides also agreed that they will only recommend independent counsel candidates who are supported by the same relatives.
The concord, however, failed to deal with the issue of compensating the victims’ families.
When to start salvage operations of the Sewol has also not been decided. As some of the passengers are still missing, their families have demanded that the underwater search operations must continue and refused to allow salvage operations.
According to sources from both parties, the last remaining disagreement as of yesterday afternoon was about the government reorganization plan, particularly concerning the autonomy of the National Emergency Management Agency.
While the two parties agreed to establish a new National Safety Ministry that will oversee the Coast Guard, they disagreed on the destiny of the National Emergency Management Agency. The opposition said it must remain independent, while the ruling party said the new ministry should oversee it.
The two sides reached agreement that both the Coast Guard and National Emergency Management Agency will be supervised by the new ministry and that a secretary for disaster management will be appointed in the Blue House.
BY SER MYO-JA [firstname.lastname@example.org]