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Main opposition seeks to railroad more pending bills ahead of new parliament

April 19, 2024 - 16:56 By Jung Min-kyung
Democratic Party of Korea Chairman Lee Jae-myung speaks during an intra-party leadership meeting held at the National Assembly on Friday. (Yonhap)

The main opposition said Friday it was looking to railroad more contentious bills before the new parliament members are sworn in, a day after it passed an amended version of the revision to the Grain Management Act that was vetoed by President Yoon Suk Yeol last year.

Democratic Party of Korea leader Lee Jae-myung emphasized the urgency of passing key bills, including an amendment to the law that strengthens protection for victims of real estate fraud, before the current assembly term concludes on May 29.

"We especially call for the cooperation of the government and the ruling party on railroading of special investigation bills on the death of a young marine last year and the 2022 Itaewon crowd crush disaster," Lee said during an intra-party leadership meeting held at the National Assembly early Friday.

Lee's remarks hint at the main opposition's plans to pass more bills on top of the five bills passed by the main opposition-controlled parliamentary standing committee on Thursday to be voted on during a plenary session at the National Assembly.

One of the five bills included a watered-down revision to the Grain Management Act requires the government to purchase excess rice yields. A previous version of the bill was vetoed by Yoon in April last year.

The Democratic Party of Korea's latest legislative moves follow the party's resounding victory in the April 10 general election, where it and its sister party secured a total of 175 seats in the single-chamber, 300-member Assembly. The ruling People Power Party and its sibling party secured a total of 108 seats.

Democratic Party Floor Leader Hong Ihk-pyo echoed Lee's remarks, urging the ruling People Power Party to help them pass during the planned provisional sessions of the Assembly ahead of May 29.

"Considering the bills aimed to improve the livelihoods of the people that are currently stored away, at least two provisional sessions of the Assembly must take place (before May 29)," Hong said during Friday's intra-party leadership meeting.

"There are over 15,000 victims of housing market fraud that the government recognizes, and if the amendment to the related law is pushed back to the next term of the Assembly then (the passing of the bill) could be delayed by five to six months. We ask the ruling party to actively participate in the planned provisional sessions in May," he added.

The key bills Lee mentioned were drawn up by the opposition in recent years and are pending to be voted on during plenary meetings. They have already been approved by main opposition-led standing committees or designated as "fast-track bills," which are automatically introduced into a plenary session after 240 days.

The amendment to a Special Act on Jeonse Fraud aims to first allocate taxpayers' money to compensate the victims of a type of real estate scam before asking the landlords for indemnity later on.

The scam involves Korea's "jeonse" housing lease system, in which under a typical two-year contract, a tenant pays a lump sum of money -- often the tenant's life savings plus bank loans or other borrowings -- to the landlord. The lump sum is returned to tenants upon the term expiration.

A group of scammers would collude to take a lump sum from tenants, which they refuse to return. Instead, they default on the debt, claiming they do not have deposit money left to return. The property then comes under the control of the debtors, who have priority over tenants in debt claims. Then, the victimiz would be forced to leave the house without having their deposits -- or life savings -- returned.

Victims of such scams surpassed 15,000 people as of Wednesday, government data showed.

The two other investigation bills push for an in-depth probe into suspicions that the government and the police exerted influence in delaying the investigations into the death of Marine Cpl. Chae Su-geun in July last year after being swept away by a strong current during a search and rescue mission for victims of a heavy downpour and into the 2022 Itaewon crowd crush where 159 lives were claimed during Halloween festivities.