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Ruling camp eyes payment of farmers' debts in seven-year installments

Ruling camp eyes payment of farmers' debts in seven-year installments

Posted November. 22, 2000 20:42,   


With the farmers' massive demonstrations on Nov. 21 providing momentum, the political circle is moving to provide a set of measures to alleviate farmers' debt burden and studying a plan to transfer jurisdiction of the Korea Racing Association (KRA) to the Agriculture-Forestry Ministry.

The government and the ruling Millennium Democratic Party (MDP), holding a joint meeting on Wednesday, decided to enact a special law allowing debt-ridden farmers to pay their liabilities in long-term installments and reducing or exempting their overdue interest on conditions. Farmers¡¯ total debt is estimated at some 25.6 trillion won, while their interest on arrears reaches 170 billion won.

The Agriculture-Forestry Minister has agreed with the Planning and Budget Ministry to allow the farmers to pay back their debts in five-year installments. But in this regard, the MDP proposed a plan for a two-year grace period and five-year installments.

The government and the MDP also plan to waive overdue interest of 170 billion won on the condition that the debtors repay the principal and interest in the future. The ruling camp is expected to announce the agreed items on Nov. 23.

On the other hand, the opposition Grand National Party (GNP), convening a meeting of the party special committee on farmers' debts on Wednesday, decided to draw up a pertinent special law. GNP spokesman Kwon Chul-Hyeon disclosed that his party will gradually lower interest rates in the coming four to five years so that farmers' debts would be virtually alleviated. Also under study is a plan to extend the period of their repayment.

In an unusual action, the opposition GNP plans to promote the legislation in agreement with the splinter United Liberal Democrats (ULD).

The three parties also considered a plan to place the KRA under the jurisdiction of the Agriculture-Forestry Ministry, as the measure was one of their common pledges in the 1997 presidential election.

At the MDP executive council meeting on Wednesday, party advisor Kim Woon-Ki asserted that the election pledge should be kept but some council members raised objections. Meanwhile, the ULD has reaffirmed the transfer of the KRA to the ministry.

Yoon Young-Chan yyc11@donga.com