Park criticizes Assembly for inaction on reforms

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Park criticizes Assembly for inaction on reforms

President Park Guen-hye lashed out Monday at the National Assembly for not passing a set of bills she perceives as crucial to reviving Korea’s sluggish economy and lamented that politics for the people had been “lost.”

“The National Assembly has been indifferent toward a set of legislation that is directly related to public welfare and economic revival but instead have opted to focus on internal rifts that have nothing to do with the people’s livelihoods,” she said during a meeting with her top secretaries at the Blue House.

Park went on to liken the Assembly’s failure to pass labor-reform measures and bills to boost the service sector in the last regular session of the 19th parliament as “an act of evasion” on addressing public welfare.

The president went on to declare that politics for the people had been “lost.”

During its last regular session, the National Assembly on Wednesday failed to pass a set of bills supported by the Blue House that are designed to stimulate the economy. An extra parliamentary session started Thursday.

Park’s comment on “internal rifts” appeared to have aimed at the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), on the verge of a split after former co-chairman Ahn Cheol-soo left the party Monday in protest against its current leadership.

“The five bills on labor reform were agreed upon by three groups - labor unions, the corporate sector and the government - for the first time in 17 years, which is a reflection of an outcry from young people [in the job market],” the president said. “Yet they have not even been reviewed by parliament.”

To illustrate the importance of approving the labor reform package, Park argued that the bills would help create nearly 370,000 new jobs over the next five years.

Among changes to be introduced, the five bills would extend the time period for irregular workers 35 and older to continue working on a temporary contract from two years to four.

Current regulation mandates that companies promote temporary workers into regular workers after two years, which has instead prompted companies to dismiss temporary workers before they complete a two-year contract in order to avoid increased labor costs.

The bills would also ease labor restrictions for employers to dismiss workers who are underperforming or negligent.

Park’s criticism of the National Assembly on Monday was another example of the tough stance she has taken toward lawmakers over the past few weeks as she has pressed them to approve the government plan to overhaul the labor market.

Yet, her remarks have also raised questions about her regard for the legislative independence of the Assembly.

On Monday, the president also urged private companies to adopt a peak wage system that has been introduced in state-run institutions, under which those nearing retirement receive a fixed or reduced salary so that businesses may use the surplus to hire young talent.

Park said the new system would create 130,000 new jobs if adopted in the private sector, citing labor experts, and emphasized the fact that the public sector would see 8,000 new jobs in the two years from its implementation.

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

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