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Parties Getting Nastier over FTA Ratification Motion

Posted December. 19, 2008 08:28,   


The increasingly ugly battle over the ratification of the free trade deal agreement between rival parties shows just how far apart the two sides are in the debate.

The ruling party is desperate to ratify the agreement before the year ends since ratification will pave the way for the settlement of other pending bills. The deal is seen as necessary for reviving the sagging economy and has the backing of the majority of the people.

Ruling party leader floor leader Hong Joon-pyo said he is determined to press ahead with the ratification, saying, “The people ordered us to do our job by giving us an absolute parliamentary majority of 172 seats in the April general elections. If we continue to be swayed by the minor Democratic Party, which has only 83 seats, this is tantamount to neglect of duty.”

Hong is under criticism from his party members for going too easy on opposition parties. He apparently put the motion on the legislative agenda unilaterally after realizing that protracted negotiations with opposition parties will not benefit his party.

Right after the bill’s introduction before parliament, ruling party lawmaker Lee Hye-hoon said, “It’s certain that the (main opposition) Democratic Party has no intention to compromise with us over the deal.”

The ruling party also said TV broadcast of a scene where lawmakers and members of opposition parties tear down a committee room door with hammers will undermine the image of the opposition.

In its unilateral move, the ruling party took a cue from former Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Kim Won-woong in the previous National Assembly. A member of the then United New Democratic Party, Kim single-handedly laid the ratification motion before parliament in February this year despite opposition from his party members.

Members of the Democratic Party also took drastic action by attempting to force their way into the committee room and boycotting all Assembly committees. The party leadership said it has exhausted all other possible means.

Since the parliamentary settlement of the budget bill for next year, hard-liners in the opposition party have blamed their leadership for being too easy on the ruling party. With other members demanding a new leadership, the beleaguered party leaders had no choice but to take drastic action, experts said.

The leadership has also been hard-pressed by traditional supporters of the Democratic Party, who vehemently oppose early ratification of the free trade deal. On the violent clash with security guards, Democratic Party floor leader Won Hye-young, who has insisted on peaceful means in negotiations with the ruling party, did an about face by saying, “Their efforts looked beautiful.”

The ruling party’s pledge to settle a slew of deregulation bills in the extra parliamentary session has put the Democratic Party’s back to the wall.

“The consensus within the party is that we should not lose control in the battle over the trade deal, which will embolden the ruling party to wield its majority power,” said Democratic Party lawmaker Jun Byung-hun.

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