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Assembly June session may end with few results

June 26, 2011 - 20:30 By 천성우
While the National Assembly’s June provisional session nears its end, rival parties are yet to find the solution to most of the pending issues, raising concerns that the related discussions may be put off until the September session.

The parliamentary tie-up also boosted anticipation over Monday’s talk between President Lee Myung-bak and main opposition party leader Sohn Hak-kyu.

Last Thursday, the ruling Grand National Party unveiled its three-year plan to cut university tuition by 30 percent but met with backlash from the opposition camp.

The GNP plan calls for a total budget of 6.8 trillion won ($6.3 billion) over the upcoming three years and a gradual increase in the yearly investment level, according to officials.

The opposition Democratic Party, however, urged an immediate budget increase of 5.8 trillion won, demanding immediate and noticeable tuition cuts starting from next year.

Cheong Wa Dae, too, expressed regrets over the ruling party’s announcement and said that it should have been put off after until Monday’s talk.

The inter-party competition on the tuition cuts kicked off last month as GNP floor leader Hwang Woo-yea pledged to ease the financial burden of university students and parents, in an attempt to win back public support after by-election defeats.

The DP, which traditionally backed such plans, responded with more progressive plans and accused the ruling party of making shallow moves to win votes in next year’s elections.

Little progress was made during the past month in breaking the impasse.

The parliamentary education committee managed to pass the revision bill of the private school law, restricting schools in accumulating tuition revenues to a certain ratio and thus urging them to maximize their budget expenditures.

However, the committee failed to reach a consensus on most other urgent issues, including the amount of government support and the financial restructuring of private schools.

Parties were also divided over the savings banks scandal, on which an official parliamentary investigation is to be launched early next month.

Though the GNP and the DP agreed to deal with the issue during Wednesday’s plenary session, they yet hold different views on the range and method of the investigation.

The DP demanded a thorough inquiry into the charges that ruling party and government officials were involved in the scandal.

The GNP, on the other hand, said that the focus should be placed on the victims’ protection as the corruption charges are currently subject to prosecutorial investigation.

Another pending issue is the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement bill.

Last week, opposition parties once again pledged to veto the current bill and demanded for a renegotiation, despite the ruling party and Cheong Wa Dae’s efforts to have it passed during the June session.

The Lee-Sohn talk on Monday is to involve six major subjects directly related to citizens’ livelihoods ― tuition cut plans, the savings banks corruption scandal, the Korea-U.S. FTA, employment solutions, supplementary budget revisions and household debt solutions.

By Bae Hyun-jung (