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Legislature is deadlocked, budget bill could be late

Nov 20,2018
Floor leaders of three major parties on Monday couldn’t agree to normalize parliamentary affairs, so deadlocked are they on several domestic issues, raising the question of whether the National Assembly will be able to approve the government budget for next year by the legal deadline, which is Dec. 2.

DP floor leader Hong Young-pyo, Liberty Korea Party (LKP) floor leader Kim Sung-tae and Bareunmirae Party floor leader Kim Kwan-young met at the National Assembly to search for middle ground on issues that the DP and the two oppositions disagree over, but failed.

The LKP announced it would boycott all parliamentary activities, casting doubt on the prospects of approving the 470.5 trillion-won ($416.4 billion) budget bill by the Dec. 2 deadline.

The assembly frequently fails to meet the legal deadline for the budget, although it did in 2015 and 2016.

One major disagreement is the opposition’s demand that a parliamentary probe be launched into alleged nepotism in hiring at Seoul Metro, a public corporation run by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, which operates Seoul Metro lines No.1 through 8 and which around 10 million people take on a daily basis. DP floor leader Hong called the demand “over the top.”

Opposition suspects the DP is refusing the probe because it worries it will ensnarl Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon when speculation abounds that he is preparing to run for president in 2022.

“The DP is damaging a country already reeling from nepotism allegations with its overt efforts to protect Mayor Park,” said LKP floor leader Kim after his meeting with his ruling party counterpart.

“If the DP continues such disregard for the people, the LKP will have no choice but take a bold step as the No. 1 opposition party,” warned Kim, alluding to the LKP’s continued boycott of the parliamentary activities.

Kim of the Bareunmirae Party also criticized the DP for its rejection of a parliamentary probe into the Seoul Metro scandal.
“Why is the DP so afraid of accepting the probe?” he asked.

Suspicions of irregular recruitment at Seoul Metro arose earlier this year when it was revealed that 108 among the 1,285 workers upgraded earlier this year from long-term contract positions to full-time positions were found to be relatives of existing employees. The possibility that they took the contract jobs after getting inside information about the upgrades from their relatives did not sit well with the public at a time of worsening youth unemployment. In June this year, the number of Koreans aged 25 to 45 without jobs reached 338,000, the highest in 19 years, according to government data.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr ]