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National Assembly Likely to Open Soon

Posted July. 01, 2008 03:13,   


The 18th National Assembly, which has been paralyzed for more than a month since its official launch, is likely to open this week at the earliest.

Ruling Grand National Party floor leader Hong Joon-pyo and his counterpart from the main opposition United Democratic Party Won Hye-young agreed yesterday to get parliament back on track.

At the meeting, the two floor leaders almost reached a consensus on some 13 issues, including U.S. beef imports and parliamentary operations.

On U.S. beef imports, the GNP said it will positively review a revision to the law on the prevention of livestock epidemics and enactment of a new law on trade procedures. The UDP made the two issues preconditions for returning to the Assembly.

Both sides, however, failed to reach a complete agreement as Hong said the revision should not violate international law.

They also discussed the appointments of parliamentary committee chairmen; a parliamentary investigation into the beef debacle; new committees to study the beef row; and revival of the people’s livelihood.

Won also asked the ruling party to give up the chairmanship of the National Assembly’s Legislation and Judiciary Committee.

The UDP held an emergency meeting of 59 party lawmakers in the afternoon to vote on returning to parliament. A slight majority opposed, however, citing the government crackdown on candlelight protesters.

Rank and file UDP members have reportedly left crucial decisions to the party leadership, including when and how to start parliament. In a party leadership meeting, senior party members and Co-chairman Sohn Hak-kyu agreed on whether and when to end their parliamentary boycott, though citing the difficulty involved, UDP sources said.

Before the meeting, Sohn told his party’s Supreme Council, “There will be criticism and misunderstanding (in the process of deciding on the return). However, we should be determined to take the lead in saving the country.”

The main opposition party’s national convention slated for Sunday will elect a new leader, and is expected to serve as a turning point in the proposed start of the National Assembly.

Regardless of the UDP’s cooperation, GDP floor leader Hong told The Dong-A Ilbo that the ruling party will complete the election of the National Assembly speaker by Friday.

To discuss this, Hong said he will hold talks with the floor leaders of opposition parties tomorrow, including Kwan Sun-taek of the minor conservative Liberty Forward Party. Certain UDP members also suggested “a phased return” to parliament to elect a speaker.

The LFP also suggested talks on revising the law on livestock epidemic prevention to have it comply with international law; an inquiry into the beef negotiations with Washington by a committee; the enactment of a trade procedure law; and a task force consisting of the ruling and opposition parties and the government to deal with the people’s livelihood.

sunshade@donga.com srkim@donga.com