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Moon's extra budget gains momentum on People's Party support

The Moon Jae-in administration’s supplementary budget plan gained much needed momentum Thursday with the minor opposition People’s Party agreeing to cooperate with the ruling Democratic Party of Korea.

With the support of the People’s Party, the Democratic Party is expected to push the bill through the budget committee, which will then enable it to be put to the plenary session set for July 18. 

As the review at the committee level was expected to take between five and seven days, Thursday was the deadline if the bill is to be put to the plenary vote during the July parliamentary term. 

President Moon Jae-in (Yonhap)
President Moon Jae-in (Yonhap)

President Moon Jae-in’s chief of staff Lim Jong-seok secured support of the People’s Party, visiting the party’s leadership at the National Assembly and apologizing for a gaffe involving the ruling party’s chairwoman Choo Mi-ae.

“Lim came to visit Rep. Kim Dong-cheol and me to ask for our approval of the extra budget bill to help revitalize the economy,” the party’s interim chief Park Joo-sun said after a general meeting.

Rep. Choo of the Democratic Party angered People’s Party members when she raised the suspicion that the minor opposition party’s leadership might have been involved in a set-up against President Moon’s son during the past election season. Two party members, including a former supreme council member, have been arrested in the scandal, which is shaking the group to the core. 

Floor leader Rep. Kim Dong-cheol (left) and interim chief Park Joo-sun of People's Party talks in the party's emergent meeting at the National Assembly on Thursday. (Yonhap)
Floor leader Rep. Kim Dong-cheol (left) and interim chief Park Joo-sun of People's Party talks in the party's emergent meeting at the National Assembly on Thursday. (Yonhap)

Lim apologized for Rep. Choo’s remarks, and asked for cooperation from the People’s Party, Rep. Park added.

President Moon, who has put adding more jobs to the market as his top priority, proposed a supplementary budget bill totaling 11.2 trillion won ($9.8 billion) to spur job growth.

“I would like to ask one more time to the National Assembly to handle pending key bills,” Moon said early on Thursday.

Two conservative opposition parties -- the largest opposition bloc Liberty Korea Party and splinter Bareun Party -- are maintaining their boycott of the extra budget plan, demanding the president withdraw nominations of two Cabinet ministers, who they deem unfit for the job.

One of the two, Labor Minister nominee Cho Dae-yop, voluntarily gave up on the post on Thursday, while the president is set to press ahead with the appointment of another, Defense Minister nominee Song Young-moo.

The two have been attacked for ethical lapses, such as Song’s false registration of an address and Cho’s drunk driving record.

The ruling Democratic Party Floor Leader Rep. Woo Won-shik stressed the need to swiftly handle the extra budget, citing difficulties in the job market.

“The lacking workforce is overloading the postman, fire fighter and social welfare worker, who are collapsing from overwork,” Rep. Woo said in a party meeting early in the day. “The whole point of the extra budget plan is to change the circumstances there and also provide more jobs to the youth.”

The first plenary session of July was nullified Tuesday due to the boycott of the opposition parties.

The government has been stressing the need to pass the supplementary bill as soon as possible, so that the actual implementation of the extra budget proceeds to help in the second half of 2017.

The supplementary budget should be submitted to the special committee on budget and accounts, where lawmakers across the aisle review and consent to put the bill to a vote at the plenary session.

For the bill to pass, it needs to obtain over half of the votes from the majority lawmakers presented in the 299-member National Assembly.

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)
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