Blue House asks for a passed bill to be revised

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Blue House asks for a passed bill to be revised

The Blue House is livid about the so-called Chung Ui-hwa bill that eases requirements to hold a hearing at a National Assembly standing committee, saying the legislation could “immobilize” the administration. It demanded the bill be revised as soon as the next parliamentary session kicks off.

President Park Geun-hye has not signed the bill into law.

On Thursday, the final plenary session of the outgoing National Assembly passed a bill that would allow lawmakers to open an extra voting session in August every year and standing committee meetings during the third weeks of March and May, when the legislature is not in session.

The bill, proposed by National Assembly Speaker Chung Ui-hwa, also enables a hearing to take place on the request of more than one third of lawmakers on a standing committee, or when the committee approves the need. That concept is being referred to as “365-day hearings.” A standing committee will be able to call a hearing and key witnesses for questioning without having to go through the administrative hassle of launching an investigation.

While the Park administration did not give an official position on the bill, Blue House officials had said it needed a more thorough review.

The bill, though approved by the House Steering Committee and the Legislation and Judiciary Committee, was opposed by the ruling Saenuri Party amid concerns this will give the legislature excessive control over the administration. Although a hearing at a standing committee was possible in the past, calls for hearings were often rejected by the majority party.

However, some Saenuri lawmakers who are not loyalists of President Park, including Chung, as well as independent lawmakers who left the Saenuri before the April general election supported the change.

It was passed Thursday with 117 in support, 79 opposed and 26 abstentions of 222 lawmakers who took part in the vote.

“If a standing committee holds a hearing on every single issue, how can any public servant work with any sort of conviction?” said one Blue House official asking for anonymity. “If this enables the reinforcement of the National Assembly’s ability toward deliberation, it may be justified, but it can enable the legislative branch’s authority to become too strong. Such hearings can be used for the purpose of creating political strife, and this can render the administration powerless.”

The official continued, “This is a situation that has to be revised when the new National Assembly session opens.”

Some Blue House officials have even suggested the president exercise her veto power over the bill.

But another Blue House aide pointed out, “There are a lot of issues that need to be reviewed for there to be a veto. There are many differences, in this case, to when the president vetoed the revision to the National Assembly Act.”

Last June, President Park vetoed a bill that strengthened the National Assembly’s authority to demand a change in administrative legislation, such as presidential decrees and the prime minister’s ordinances. Park at that time claimed the revision was unconstitutional and violated the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches.

Jeong Yeon-guk, a presidential spokesman, told reporters Friday, “Many problems have been raised about the revision to the National Assembly Act, and I will give updates after further review.”

However, Woo Sang-ho, floor leader of the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea, vowed in a party meeting, “The Minjoo Party, even if a standing committee hearing is enabled through a request of more than one third of enrolled lawmakers, will not abuse this right.”

Ahn Cheol-soo, co-chairman of the People’s Party, lauded the National Assembly Act reforms, adding, “From the next National Assembly, regular hearings will be possible, and meaningful change may be shown to the people.”

BY SHIN YONG-HO, SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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