The prospects of a return to business as usual at the National Assembly were dashed Monday when the ruling and opposition parties failed to reach common ground in ongoing political disputes.
On Monday, the floor leaders of the ruling Democratic Party and the conservative opposition Liberty Korea Party and Bareunmirae Party met in an attempt to normalize parliamentary operations but failed to do so, with the meeting serving only to entrench their differences.
The ruling and conservative blocs remain deadlocked over a number of issues, bringing parliamentary business to a halt despite the fast-approaching deadline for the review of next year’s budget.
Issues on which the parties have locked horns include a parliamentary inquiry into irregularities in the hiring process at state-run organizations -- a proposal championed by the Liberty Korea Party -- and the composition of the budget revision committee.
The conservatives are also demanding the resignation of Cho Kuk, senior secretary to the president for social affairs, as well as an apology from President Moon Jae-in for appointing Environment Minister Cho Myung-rae.
The Democratic Party has proposed the inclusion of a 16th member on the budget review committee, while the Liberty Korea Party insists on maintaining the current 15-member structure.
The ruling party’s proposal would increase its representation on the committee to seven members instead of six. At present, the ruling and main opposition parties each have six seats, the Bareunmirae Party has two, and another seat is set aside for a representative of a party with fewer than 20 seats.
“The Democratic Party has ruined Korea, which has been marred by corruption in hiring, to protect (Seoul Mayor) Park Won-soon,” Liberty Korea Party floor leader Rep. Kim Sung-tae said.
The scandal over corruption in hiring at state-run organizations started when irregularities were uncovered at Seoul Metro, which is under the control of the Seoul Metropolitan Government.
Kim went on to accuse the Democratic Party of delaying negotiations as part of a ploy to pass the government’s budget bill without any modifications.
Later in the day, Kim sent a message to his party’s representatives on parliamentary committees, requesting them to halt all parliamentary proceedings.
The main opposition also convened an emergency meeting to discuss further steps the party will take.
Bareunmirae Party floor leader Rep. Kim Kwan-young echoed the sentiments of Kim Sung-tae, accusing the ruling party of intentionally causing delays in the review of the budget and of steamrolling over the opposition bloc.
Democratic Party floor leader Rep. Hong Young-pyo, for his part, said Monday’s talks fell apart due to the opposition parties’ unreasonable demands.
“(The parties) are still on parallel courses, and it is difficult as there aren’t reasonable demands that (the ruling party) can accept,” Hong told reporters after the meeting.
Regarding demands for a parliamentary inquiry, Hong said his party intended to wait for a decision from the Board of Audit and Inspection before taking action.
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org)