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Assembly Speaker Delivers Ultimatum on Pending Bills

Posted December. 30, 2008 03:14,   


The bipartisan wrangling between the ruling and opposition parties entered a new phase yesterday as National Assembly Speaker Kim Hyong-o extended the passage of contentious bills to early next year.

Pledging to put the controversial bills to a vote Jan. 8, Kim also ordered the main opposition Democratic Party to end its sit-in protest at the main parliamentary chamber by the end of the day, warning he will stretch his authority to restore order in the legislature.

The ruling and opposition parties tried to fine-tune their differences as they convened a series of floor leader meetings but failed to reach a consensus.

In a news conference in Busan yesterday, Kim urged both parties to cooperate to put urgent bills to a vote tomorrow, demanding an end to the sit-in protest at the Assembly`s main chamber by midnight.

He said he will invoke his power today to restore order at the legislature if the protest continued and announced measures to finalize the contentious bills by Jan. 8.

“If this situation continues, I will take necessary steps including enforcing my authority as speaker to restore order in the parliament and take the consequences as my responsibility,” he said.

His statement meant he will stretch his authority “to the extreme” to put the bills to a vote if both parties fail to reach a compromise. The two sides, however, remained skeptical of Kim’s arbitration.

With mediation from the floor leader of the minor conservative Liberty Forward Party, the floor leaders of the ruling and main opposition parties held a meeting to narrow their opinions over 85 contentious bills, including deregulation on bank and cross-media ownership.

Ruling party floor leader Hong Joon-pyo offered a compromised bill, saying, “The bills on cross-media ownership, ratification of the Korea–U.S. free trade agreement and social reform laws can be postponed but we should deal with economy-related bills in the upcoming extraordinary session.”

The Democratic Party refused, however, to make concessions on bills related to easing the separation of banking and commerce and the privatization of the Korea Development Bank, demanding that the controversial bills be put to a vote instead of undergoing negotiations.

Certain experts predict a dramatic breakthrough in the negotiations is possible, however, as the main opposition party is willing to accept 58 of the 85 bills suggested by its rival except for those related to media and bank ownership.