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Govt. to enact Sewol ferry victim support act, request veto on contentious bills

By Yonhap

Published : May 29, 2024 - 10:50

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A plenary session of the National Assembly is held in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap) A plenary session of the National Assembly is held in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

The government has decided to accept and promulgate an opposition-led bill extending support for victims of the 2014 sinking of the ferry Sewol, while asking President Yoon Suk Yeol to veto four other contentious bills, sources said Wednesday.

The legislation on the Sewol disaster was one of five bills that the main opposition Democratic Party and other minor opposition parties unilaterally passed through the National Assembly on Tuesday despite objections from the ruling People Power Party.

The amendment to the Sewol Victim Support Act is aimed at extending the medical expense support period for disaster victims by five years. A total of 304 people, mostly high school students on a school field trip, were killed as the 6,800-ton Sewol ferry sank off the southwestern coast in April 2014.

Political watchers had expected the government to reject all five bills.

But sources said the government has decided to accept the Sewol legislation while rejecting the four others. Prime Minister Han Duck-soo plans to preside over a Cabinet meeting later Wednesday to approve the Sewol legislation, the sources said.

The other four bills include a revised special measure aimed at assisting victims of a series of home rental scams, which calls for the state to pay victims their deposits before recovering the money from the landlords.

The DP has pushed for the revision to provide victims with better support measures, but the ruling PPP has argued the state should not intervene in transactions between individuals.

Another contentious bill is the Democratic Merit Act, which proposes benefits for former pro-democracy activists who have not yet been designated as national merit awardees.

The PPP argues that this bill is problematic as it could recognize controversial figures, including those who violated the National Security Act, and extend benefits to their descendants.

The current term of the 21st National Assembly ends later in the day.

The DP has vowed to push for other contentious bills, including a special counsel probe into a Marine's death, in the upcoming 22nd National Assembly, set to kick off Thursday. (Yonhap)