Squabbles threaten start to Assembly

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Squabbles threaten start to Assembly

The deputy floor leaders of the three major parties in the National Assembly continued their negotiations on appointments into the night Monday, a day before its first plenary session.

According to the National Assembly Act, an extraordinary session was supposed to start on June 5, the seventh day of the lawmakers’ new term. But because June 5 was a Sunday and June 6 was Memorial Day, the first plenary session should be held today.

Since the 13th National Assembly opened in 1988, every Korean legislature has started late because the political parties failed to agree on who will chair standing committees.

With the three major parties in the Assembly at odds over appointments of the speaker and standing committee chairmen, the question of whether the Assembly will actually commence in time remained unanswered as of press time Monday.

The Saenuri and the Minjoo parties are particularly at odds over Assembly speaker and chairmanships of the House Steering Committee, Legislation and Judiciary Committee and the Special Committee on Budget and Account.

It has been customary for the ruling party to assume the speaker post, as well as the chairmanships of the influential standing committees. But the April 13 general election resulted in a three-party system for the first time in 16 years and no party has a majority.

The Monday meeting restarted negotiations, which were stalled for six days after the parties disagreed over how the speaker would be chosen.

On May 31, the Minjoo and People’s parties called for a free vote on the speaker.

The Saenuri Party saw this as a scheme to elect a liberal speaker and called off all negotiations. With 122 Saenuri Party lawmakers, 123 Minjoo Party lawmakers and 38 People’s Party lawmakers in the 300-seat National Assembly, the liberal parties outnumber the Saenuri.

The parties got together again when Minjoo Deputy Floor Leader Park Wan-ju said in a press conference Monday that he “regrets if the Saenuri Party misunderstood [the opposition parties’ intention].”

In a press conference before the negotiations Monday, the deputy floor leaders voiced their determination to reach an agreement before the following morning.

“We apologize for dragging out negotiations until the last minute,” said Kim Kwan-young, deputy floor leader of the People’s Party Monday.

Saenuri deputy floor leader Kim Do-eup asked the opposition parties to take the negotiations seriously and to show their commitment in “action rather than in words only.”

Park also apologized for the delay and promised to deliver an agreement by Tuesday morning.

“The three parties will try their best to reach agreement through dialogue and compromise today,” Park said on Monday, “so that by tomorrow morning, the people will see the speaker and vice speakers of the Assembly being elected in its first plenary session.”

BY NAMKOONG WOOK AND KIM KYUNG-HEE [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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