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Political Parties to Clash Over 3 Major Issues

Posted October. 25, 2008 14:27,   


The 18th National Assembly’s first audit technically concluded yesterday, with the ruling and opposition parties set to clash again in the second round of the regular parliamentary session.

The ruling Grand National Party and the main opposition Democratic Party will butt heads over the parliamentary inquiry into the rice subsidy scandal (Nov. 10 – Dec. 5). Both sides will also likely hold a tug-of-war over the ratification of the free trade agreement with the United States and the passage of the ruling party’s economic stimulus bills on deregulation and tax cuts.

Bipartisan conflict is unavoidable as the GNP will highlight the mistakes of the previous Roh Moo-hyun administration as the main issue, whereas the DP will blast the incumbent administration’s economic policies.

▽ Parliamentary inquiry into subsidy scandal

The GNP plans to focus on looking into the alleged Board of Audit and Inspection’s cover-up and reasons for reporting its findings to the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae in advance. The party says the Roh administration instructed the internal affairs agency last year to destroy the list of subsidy recipients rather than disclose the results of a probe into those who illegally took the subsidies. The GNP named members to a committee on the matter, such as lawmakers Chang Yoon-seok, Park Jun-seon and Lee Bum-rae.

The main opposition Democratic Party says the probe will not put it at a disadvantage. A large number of high-ranking officials are included on the list of illegal subsidy recipients, the liberal party said, so it will likely attack the moral laxity of high income earners, most of whom are GNP supporters. Top snipers such as lawmaker Choi Kyu-sung of the National Assembly’s Food, Agriculture, Forestry and the Fisheries Committee and Baek Won-woo of the Health and Welfare Committee have been selected as members of the subsidy committee.

Both parties are paying close attention to the degree of disclosure of the subsidy recipient list that the board promised to restore.

▽ Deregulation and tax cuts

GNP floor leader Hong Joon-pyo said, “It is important to settle a raft of pending bills on lifting the shareholding cap, reforming public corporations, and income tax cuts.”

His party said it will pass bills on financial restructuring and comprehensive property tax reduction. The administration urged the GNP last month to pass 44 bills, including 14 on economic stimulus measures, in this regulation session.

The DP, however, is against the tax cut bills, saying comprehensive and corporate tax cuts will benefit the rich. Instead, the party seeks a 30-percent reduction in the value-added tax. It also warns that the GNP’s financial restructuring bill on easing the separation of financial and industrial capital will concentrate economic power in conglomerates.

▽ Free trade deal with U.S.

The government submitted a proposal for the ratification of the free trade deal with the United Sates to the National Assembly Oct, 8. “We should promptly ratify the proposal so that it can serve as the foundation to search for a new growth enginer,” GNP Chairman Park Hee-tae told the Dong-A Ilbo Thursday.

The ruling party will pressure the DP, which is reluctant to pass the proposal, by convincing the public that Korea has more to gain from the deal as claimed by the U.S. Democratic Party.

DP Chairman Chung Sye-kyun said, “Even if we pass it first, it will not have leverage in pressuring the U.S. Congress,. We should take sufficient time before deciding whether to ratify the bill.”

The GNP will also draw up a revised bill on parliamentary law to require each bill to be deliberated by a certain deadline. This will provide an institutional strategy for the GNP to prevent opposition parties from delaying handling of impending bills.

The ruling party is also pushing for the introduction of class-action suits against illegal demonstrations and cyber crimes.

The DP is waiting for the right moment to push a parliamentary inquiry into the government and the ruling party’s alleged attempt to control the media, saying the appointment of CEOs at broadcasters YTN and KBS was politically motivated.

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