Opposition ends Nat’l Assembly boycott

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Opposition ends Nat’l Assembly boycott

The main opposition party on Thursday decided to end its legislative boycott while continuing street protests against the Park Geun-hye administration’s restoration of state control over history textbooks.

The New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) began boycotting legislative activities as the government took the final step on Tuesday to return to state-penned history textbooks.

Since then, operations at the National Assembly, including the main session scheduled for Tuesday, have been paralyzed.

The NPAD held a general assembly of its lawmakers and conferences with leaders of its local chapters to create a strategy to fight the government over textbook issues but concluded that it would end the legislative boycott while continuing protests outside the National Assembly.

Still, National Assembly operations were not normalized immediately. Opposition lawmakers are expected to return to their posts early next week.

“This [textbook] issue will not end overnight,” NPAD Chairman Moon Jae-in said at the general assembly. “We cannot be stuck with this indefinitely. We must save the economy and protect the public from the crisis.”

NPAD floor leader Lee Jong-kul backed up Moon’s statements, saying that the party must not abandon the National Assembly, although he vowed to retaliate against the ruling Saenuri Party for creating a divide in its support for state-authored textbooks.

In an interview with the CBS radio, NPAD Secretary General Choi Jae-sung said the protests inside the legislature would conclude by the end of the week. “We will have a meticulously planned fight over the textbook issue for at least the next year,” he said.

The NPAD has scheduled a major protest for today at Bosingak Park in central Seoul that lawmakers and civic groups will attend. It also plans to form alliances with scholars and civic groups.

As the legislative vacuum continued, the ruling Saenuri Party threatened to use its majority to normalize National Assembly operations. The party, which commands 159 out of the 300-seat legislature, went ahead with reviewing next year’s budget despite the absence of the opposition. The special committee on budget and accounts met Thursday morning.

NPAD lawmakers on the committee entered the session only to protest the Saenuri Party’s decision to go ahead with budget deliberations, and after lodging complaints, they left the conference room.

Later in the afternoon, the floor leaders of the ruling and opposition parties sat down in a meeting arranged by National Assembly Speaker Chung Ui-hwa to normalize the legislative schedule but no progress was made.

Earlier in the morning, the ruling party chairman had urged the NPAD to return to the legislature.

“Do anything you want,” he said. “But you should do it while the legislature operates normally. There is a mountain of issues left pending so I cannot understand why the NPAD is staying outside the legislature.”

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