Park slams Assembly compromise on Sewol law

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Park slams Assembly compromise on Sewol law

President Park Geun-hye made clear her opposition to a revision to a parliamentary law passed last week to empower lawmakers to demand changes in administrative legislation, saying it would paralyze the government.

Park’s rebuke to the National Assembly raised the prospect of a showdown between the presidential office and the Assembly, especially with the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), and could signal a deepening rift between her and the Saenuri leadership of Kim Moo-sung.

“I am very concerned over the prospect that the revised parliamentary law could jeopardize the government’s state affairs,” said Park during a meeting with presidential senior secretaries on Monday.

In a blunt tone, she also blamed lawmakers for what she described as dragging the issue of the sinking of the Sewol ferry into negotiations over a bill to overhaul the civil service pension system.

Last Friday, the assembly passed a bill to overhaul the pension system but only after the ruling party agreed to revise the law governing the National Assembly to allow the legislature to request the government amend certain kinds of administrative legislation such as presidential decrees and the prime minister’s ordinances. After the National Assembly makes such a request, the government will have to make the change.

The opposition may request such a change to an enforcement decree for the special law governing the investigation of the sinking of the Sewol ferry in April 2014, which was approved by the cabinet on May 6.

Park said the ability of the government to achieve policy objectives “will inevitably be hampered” if the Assembly can force changes to administrative decrees, and damage will be inflicted on the economy.

“The government cannot accept the revision of the parliamentary law,” said Park, sparking speculation that she will veto the bill. That would be her first veto as president.

The revision to the National Assembly law was approved by 211 lawmakers, more than two thirds of the 298 incumbent members of the legislature, with 11 no votes and 22 abstentions. A two-thirds vote by the legislature can overturn a presidential veto.

The opposition NPAD wants to change the enforcement of the law governing the investigation of the sinking of the Sewol ferry. The enforcement decree calls for a government official to manage a special committee investigating the ferry’s sinking. An official from the prosecution will oversee the probe.

The NPAD and the relatives of the Sewol victims want a civilian in charge of the investigation in order to ensure its objectivity and independence.

With the growing possibility of a presidential veto, analysts are watching how the ruling Saenuri Party will respond. If it supports a vote to override Park’s veto, it could signify a rift between its leadership and President Park. If it refuses to join hands with the NPAD to override the veto, it will be accused of flip-flopping on the issue.

The Saenuri Party could also develop an internal rupture between Park loyalists and those outside of the pro-Park faction, namely its chairman Kim and floor leader Yoo Seong-min. Pro-Park members may criticize Kim and Yoo for agreeing to the revision of the National Assembly Act last week.

On Monday, Chairman Kim declined to comment on what the party would do if Park vetoes the revision. Floor leader Yoo said he understood the revision lacks binding authority to force changes in ordinances. The NPAD claims it does.

NPAD spokesman Kim Yung-rok said the party would consider a presidential veto a “declaration of war on the legislative branch.”

NPAD Chairman Moon Jae-in said Park and the Blue House were “overreacting.”

“The legislative authority falls on the National Assembly,” he said. “In accordance with that principle, it is only right that the government form its enforcement decrees with respect to and within the legal boundary of the [revised] law.” Moon said the revision of the parliamentary act was made because government decrees have not lived up to the intention of lawmakers when they passed laws in the past.

When asked about Saenuri floor leader Yoo’s comment that the revision lacks any binding power to force changes, Moon refuted it. He said the intention of the two parties in passing the revision was clearly to empower the Assembly to make such changes.

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

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