Heading into the final month of the year, the main opposition Democratic Party is under increasing pressure to end its boycott of the National Assembly and finish its homework ― next year’s state budget bill.
On the surface, leaders of the liberal party are resisting the pressure, calling on their lawmakers to focus on a campaign to nullify the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement.
“We should focus all our resources on the ongoing campaign against the Korea-U.S. FTA,” Rep. Kim Jin-pyo, the party’s whip, said Tuesday.
The party has boycotted all parliamentary sessions since Nov. 22, when the ruling Grand National Party rammed through the trade pact, despite opposition from liberal groups.
The DP and four other liberal parties held a joint press conference, denouncing President Lee Myung-bak for signing into law 14 bills related to the controversial trade pact earlier this week.
The parties will hold a series of outdoor rallies to protest the FTA, their leaders said.
The DP’s official stance is that it will return to the Assembly only when the government promises an immediate renegotiation of the FTA and the GNP promises measures to prevent unilateral handling of bills in the future.
Yet, voices are growing even within the DP that it must participate in the parliamentary deliberation of the budget bill, given its importance and far-reaching impact on the people.
Kim’s predecessor in the floor leader post, Rep. Park Jie-won, suggested that the party separate the national budget from its anti-FTA struggle.
“Let’s work at the Assembly in the daytime and at Gwanghwamun at night,” Rep. Park Ji-won, referring to an area in Seoul where anti-FTA rallies are being held every evening.
“The budget bill is of the utmost importance because it decides the scope of welfare programs and affect the people’s livelihood,” he said.
The GNP has said earlier that it would resume deliberations of the governmental spending plan Thursday to endorse it during the current parliamentary regular session, which ends on Dec. 9.
By law, the parliament is obliged to handle the bill by Dec. 2. Lawmakers failed to meet the deadline for the past eight years.
“The budget bill should not be held hostage to a partisan struggle,” GNP Rep. Jeong Kab-yoon, urging opposition lawmakers to end their boycott and normalize the Special Committee on Budget and Accounts. He said the committee will convene Thursday to resume deliberation of the budget plan, with or without opposition members.
DP Rep. Kang Gi-jung, who represents the DP members on the committee, fired back, saying the GNP was trying to turn the blame to the opposition, when it was the one responsible for the parliamentary paralysis.
By Lee Sun-young (firstname.lastname@example.org)