President pushes again for passage of reform bills

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President pushes again for passage of reform bills

President Park Geun-hye pleaded with the National Assembly on Friday to pass a series of pending bills in order to overcome unfavorable economic conditions following the U.S. Federal Reserve’s decision to increase its benchmark interest rate.

“The economy will be uneasy next year with global economic recovery now slowed down,” the president said during a luncheon with regional heads of chambers of commerce and industry in Korea.

“In order to overcome the various crises following the U.S. interest rate hike and the negative impacts from overseas, we have to push hard for economic reform.”

The U.S. Federal Open Market Committee announced on Wednesday that it would raise the benchmark federal funds rate from zero to between 0.25 percent and 0.5 percent.

On Friday, President Park reiterated the importance for the National Assembly to pass a set of bills that she perceives as crucial to revive Korea’s sluggish economy, adding that the window to boost the economy had not yet closed.

“I’m filled with anxiety,” she said. “I can’t sleep well these days.”

President Park said earlier that the labor reform package would help create nearly 370,000 new jobs for young people over the next five years.

Among the 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.

“I can walk a comfortable and easy path as a president. But I continue pleading with a broken heart every day, because I cannot leave behind the people who trust me,” said the president, who has long criticized the National Assembly for its inaction on the bills.

Her insistence on the reforms’ passage has led to concerns that her tough rhetoric aimed at the legislature may instead have unintended effects.

On Friday, Moon Jae-in, the chairman of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, referred to the government as a “neo-dictatorship” and claimed that the president was infringing on the legislature by putting pressure on the house speaker over the passage of the bills.

BY KIM SO-HEE, NAMKOONG WOOK [kim.sohee0905@joongang.co.kr]

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