Parties agree to probe past projects by Lee gov’t

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Parties agree to probe past projects by Lee gov’t

The ruling and opposition parties agreed Wednesday to hold a special parliamentary inquiry into the overseas resource development projects undertaken by the former Lee Myung-bak government and form a special committee to reform the debt-stricken pension program for government employees.

The arrangement raises hopes for a continued bipartisan spirit eight days after the two sides passed the 2015 budget bill by the legal deadline for the first time in 12 years.

The ruling Saenuri Party and the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) agreed that they would form a body tasked with reaching a social consensus on overhauling the contentious pension program for retired bureaucrats, though it was not clear whether the labor union for government workers would be a part of the envisioned group.

Additionally, the two parties pledged to launch another special parliamentary probe into long-standing corruption between the public sector and the private defense industry if the original prosecutorial investigation happens to fall short of expectations.

The deal Wednesday was drawn up from a meeting involving Saenuri Chairman Kim Moo-sung and his counterpart Moon Hee-sang, as well as the ruling and opposition floor leaders.

Under the agreement, the National Assembly will launch a special inquiry within the year into overseas resource investment projects undertaken during the Lee administration, which the NPAD claimed was responsible for the loss of as much as 35 trillion won ($31.7 billion).

The opposition claims the Lee administration excessively promoted overseas projects - known as “resource diplomacy” - without properly screening their financial validity or true value as businesses, and demanded that the Saenuri cooperate in opening a parliamentary probe, which was understood as a concession on the Saenuri’s part.

The investigation will inevitably target former officials who served in the Lee administration.

The parties, however, did not include the Lee government’s four-rivers restoration project on their list of special probes.

“The NPAD demanded a parliamentary probe into the four-rivers project earlier in the day,” Rep. Yoo Ki-hong, an NPAD spokesman, said after the meeting.

He added that the two parties only agreed to launch a special probe into the former administration’s resource diplomacy in the deal.

Most notable was that the two sides consented to form a special parliamentary committee by the end of this year to determine how far they should go in reforming the pension plan for government workers, which the government claims will require 53 trillion won in tax money to cover its losses over the next decade.

The Park Geun-hye government has pressured the Saenuri to take the lead in passing a pension reform bill. With no major election scheduled for 2015, it sees next year as the most opportune time to overhaul the program.

The agreement on the consensus committee was also seen as a concession by the Saenuri, which was previously opposed to forming such a task force, claiming it would consume the energy and time needed to achieve the reform. 

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



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