Budget agreement falls apart

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Budget agreement falls apart

Floor leaders of the ruling and opposition parties will meet Monday to discuss a vote on the government budget for next year. Despite a widely reported bipartisan agreement to approve the budget, the Assembly failed Friday to pass the 112 trillion won ($86 billion) spending bill.

Members of the main opposition Grand National Party walked out of the plenary session early Saturday morning after Representative Chung Sey-kyun of the ruling Millennium Democratic Party criticized the opposition party's original proposal to cut corporate taxes by 2 percentage points.

Mr. Chung called the opposition move an attempt to win votes in next year's two major elections. The two parties had settled on a 1 percentage point tax cut for corporations.

With both parties trying to shift the blame for the no-vote it was unclear when the Assembly would pass the budget.

The opposition party demanded that the ruling party apologize for Mr. Chung's criticism before voting. "Despite the compromise on corporate taxes Mr. Chung made an absurd remark, paralyzing the Assembly," Kwon Chul-hyun, the opposition spokesman, said in labeling the incident a planned political offensive.

The ruling party refused to apologize. "It is the opposition party's fault that its representatives walked out of the session just because one lawmaker expressed his personal opinion," Lee Nak-yon, the ruling party spokesman, said. "The Grand National Party should cooperate to pass the budget quickly."

Lee Man-sup, the speaker of the Assembly, said that if the parties do not agree Monday to submit the budget bill he will convene a plenary session on Wednesday and submit the bill himself.

Political analysts predicted the impasse would end quickly, and statements made Sunday by the two floor leaders suggest they are right: "If the ruling party is willing, the confrontation can be resolved easily," Lee Jae-oh, the opposition floor leader, said.

The ruling party floor leader, Lee Sang-soo, said his party would not apologize, but is willing to vote on the budget bill.



by Lee Sang-il

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