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Assembly passes pending bills, fails to handle budget

The National Assembly failed to handle President Moon Jae-in’s extra budget and government reorganization plans at a plenary session Tuesday, as rival parties continued to lock horns over some key details.

The parties, however, agreed to continue negotiations and were likely to convene another plenary session Wednesday. 

The plenary session goes into a temporary suspension at the National Assembly on Tuesday. It didn’t resume until in the evening. (Yonhap)
The plenary session goes into a temporary suspension at the National Assembly on Tuesday. It didn’t resume until in the evening. (Yonhap)

At Tuesday’ plenary, which was originally planned as the last in the parliament’s current extraordinary session and opened at 2:30 p.m., lawmakers managed to pass other pending bills, including a resolution denouncing North Korea’s July 4 test-firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile.

The resolution warns the North that its provocations could lead to the regime’s “permanent extinction,” while urging the South’s government to craft “strong, effective” measures to pressure the North to halt its provocative behavior.

The legislature also passed confirmation motions for two Supreme Court justice nominees -- Park Jeong-hwa and Cho Jae-youn.

At around 4:10 p.m., the plenary session went into a temporary suspension, to give time for floor leaders to bring in the government’s supplementary budget and government restructure bills. It, however, didn’t resume until in the evening.

Three opposition parties, controlling 167 seats in the 299-seat parliament, took issue with the 11.2 trillion won ($9.8 billion) budget, which included an 8 billion won set side to hire 4,500 new government employees within the second half of this year.

The plan is the core of President Moon’s campaign to create jobs.

The three parties -- conservative Liberty Korea Party, centrist minor People’s Party and conservative splinter Bareun Party -- oppose drawing up an extra budget to create government jobs.

“I cannot understand how such an idea that would only impose a far greater burden for the future generations was promoted in the first place,” Floor Leader Rep. Chung Woo-taik of Liberty Korea Party said in their party meeting.

The main opposition also claimed that the bill lacks legal grounds, citing that the National Finance Act stipulates a supplementary budget can be drawn up only during war, natural disasters, economic recession, mass unemployment or crucial changes in cross-border relations.

The splinter Bareun Party’s Floor Leader Rep. Joo Ho-young echoed the concerns and pointed out that they should not make a hasty decision.

Moon’s proposal to reorganize the government also failed to gather consent, as the opposition parties said more talks are needed on which department should take control of the nation’s water resources.

The bill was first welcomed by the rival parties for it intends to simplify the government structures and introduces a new ministry taking charge of small- and medium-sized corporations. But the part that aims to transfer all water-related functions in the land ministry to the environment ministry was attacked by the rival parties.

Currently the Ministry of Environment looks over the quality of water as the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport manages all other water-related affairs. Moon’s new restructure plan includes handing over the water resources department, the streams and flood control offices to the environment ministry.

The opposition parties claimed that such change is abrupt and needs to be discussed to build a public consent.

“Managing water resources and water quality are two different categories. On which ministry the responsibility of natural disasters falls on also needs further discussions,” Rep. Chung said on Tuesday.

Rep. Joo also insisted that they cannot accept the government reorganization bill and demanded the government to retract the plan.

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