Nat’l Assembly revision missing from OKed bills

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Nat’l Assembly revision missing from OKed bills

The National Assembly on Thursday sent dozens of recently approved bills, including the plan to overhaul the civil servant pension system, to the government for President Park Geun-hye to sign them into law, but left out one contentious revision to the law governing the legislature.

According to the National Assembly, 58 bills including the revision to the Public Officials Pension Act were sent to the government for Park’s signature. The bills were approved on May 29 and they will become laws after the president signs them following cabinet approval. Conspicuously missing, however, was the revision to the National Assembly Act, which was also approved on May 29. The change will allow the legislature to demand the government to amend certain kinds of administrative legislation such as presidential decrees and ordinances by the prime minister. After the National Assembly makes such a demand, the government will be required to act upon it and report back to the legislature, according to the revision.

The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) “will convene the Supreme Council and the general assembly of lawmakers on Friday to collect opinions,” National Assembly Speaker Chung Ui-hwa was quoted as saying by the legislature’s spokesman Choi Hyung-du. “The National Assembly decided to delay the sending of the bill in order to give them enough time for discussion.”

The revision was intended to accommodate the main opposition NPAD’s demand to change the enforcement decree for the special law governing the investigation into the sinking of the Sewol ferry in April 2014. The enforcement decree calls for a government official to manage a special committee investigating the accident.

The ruling Saenuri Party agreed to the National Assembly Act’s revision in a political deal to pass the plan to reform the pension system for civil servants, an initiative President Park Geun-hye announced in February 2014. The enforcement decree governing the special Sewol law is a type of administrative legislation.

Last week, Park made clear her opposition to the revision, aimed at empowering lawmakers to demand changes in administrative legislation, saying it would paralyze the government. Senior officials from the Blue House said Park would veto the bill.

The Blue House and some lawmakers in the ruling party said the revision is unconstitutional, though it was still approved by 211 lawmakers, more than two-thirds of the 298 sitting members in the legislature, with 11 rejections and 22 abstentions.

A two-thirds vote can overturn a presidential veto.

With the prospect of a presidential veto looming, Chung proposed earlier this week a compromise to the ruling and opposition parties that would soften the wording of the revision so that it would be less compulsory.

He proposed the revision to allow the National Assembly “to make a request” to the government to change a piece of administrative legislation, rather than “demand” it. The government then will “consider” the proposed change and report back to the legislature, rather than “act upon” it.

Earlier Thursday morning, Chung met with NPAD Rep. Lee Jong-kul, the party’s floor leader, to persuade him. After a 20-minute one-on-one talk, Lee told reporters that he would respect the National Assembly’s speaker’s sincere effort to mediate the situation.

“The Blue House has built up a powerful wall, but it won’t be able to ignore the will of the ruling and opposition lawmakers who passed the bill by 83 percent,” Lee said.

He said he would further consult with the party on how to handle the situation. Because Chung is expected to hold onto the National Assembly Act revision throughout this week, the bill will likely not be discussed at next week’s cabinet meeting.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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