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Bill to Dismiss Agricultural Minister Fails

Posted May. 24, 2008 08:56,   


A bill to dismiss Agriculture Minister Chung Woon-chun failed to pass the National Assembly.

Sponsored by 148 lawmakers from three opposition parties—the United Democratic Party, the Liberty Forward Party and the Democratic Labor Party—fell short six votes of the 146 vote majority needed to pass the National Assembly.

With the walkout of members of the ruling Grand National Party, 149 lawmakers from the opposition parties and independent lawmakers participated in the ballot vote, which resulted in five nays, two abstentions, and two invalid ballots. There are a total of 151 lawmakers among all the opposition parties.

The UDP had intended to officially blame the administration and assume leadership within the opposition after passing the bill to dismiss Minister Chung, who was responsible for U.S. beef negotiations. But, the bill’s failure is now likely to have an adverse impact on cooperation among the three opposition parties regarding ratification of the KORUS Free Trade Agreement as well as beef imports.

Meanwhile, as ratification of the KORUS FTA has been postponed until May 23, the last day of the extraordinary session, the Grand National Party requested the National Assembly to hold an additional extraordinary session from May 26 to May 29, when the term of the National Assembly officially ends.

However, as the UDP, which holds the largest number of seats, plans to reject the request and National Assembly Speaker Lim Chae-jung refused to propose the ratification bill in the full session, a vote on the ratification of the KORUS FTA is likely have to wait until the 18th National Assembly. Then, the trade treaty is expected to be ratified, if a majority of the lawmakers are present and a majority of them approve it.

“It was confirmed that there are a few UDP lawmakers who are opposed to linking beef negotiations to KORUS FTA ratification,” GNP spokesperson Cho Yoon-sun said immediately after the bill to dismiss Minister Chung failed to pass. “The Speaker of the National Assembly must propose the FTA ratification bill in the plenary session to protect legislators’ rights to vote and rights to legislate. We will do everything we can to persuade the opposition parties.”

Meanwhile, UDP spokesperson Choi Jae-sung said, “The bill’s failure does not mean that Minister Chung’s mistake is erased. The president must make a clear decision whether or not the minister will continue to hold his job. People want the beef issue resolved. We have no reason to support calls for an extraordinary session to ratify the KORUS FTA.”

A source from the presidential office said, “The failure to pass the bill ended the controversy over U.S. beef imports. Opposition parties must show bipartisan support to ratify the KORUS FTA.”