Lawmakers wrangle over extra budget, online rigging scandal

SEOUL, Rival parties bickered over bills related to a 3.9 trillion won (US$3.6 billion) extra budget and a special counsel probe into an online rigging scandal Thursday, one day before they are scheduled to vote on the hot-button issues.

Ending a parliamentary stalemate that lasted more than 40 days, ruling and opposition parties earlier agreed to proceed with the controversial bills -- one for the supplementary budget aimed at creating new jobs and one on an independent inquiry into the Internet comments manipulation case involving a former ruling party lawmaker -- at a plenary session Friday.

The government and the ruling Democratic Party (DP) are hoping that the budget bill will be passed, saying it will boost the sluggish job market. But the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) seeks to cut it by some 1.5 trillion won, claiming that the proposal contains spending that does not appear to be linked to job creation.

In March, the government proposed the extra budget largely to create new jobs for young people amid a sluggish job market.

The number of newly added jobs stayed slightly above the 100,000 mark for the third straight month in April, the worst record since the 2008 global financial crisis, according to government data.

Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon urged parliament Tuesday to approve the supplementary budget, calling it an "emergency budget" to address bleak job situations for young people.

If approved on Friday, the proposed extra budget will be the second of its kind under the incumbent liberal administration. Last year, the National Assembly approved an 11 trillion won supplementary budget.

"More than 9,600 bills are pending with just 15 days ahead of the end of parliamentary sessions in May," Hong Young-pyo, the floor leader of the ruling Democratic Party (DP), said.

"A plenary session aimed at passing the bills on the budget and special probe has only 36 hours left," he said. "The extra budget bill should be approved Friday. I believe that it will be."

Rival parties are also bickering over the scope of the independent counsel investigation into the online comment manipulation scandal that is allegedly linked to a former ruling party lawmaker.

The scandal has become a sensitive political issue following revelations that Kim Kyoung-soo, a former DP lawmaker who has close ties with President Moon Jae-in, knew and communicated with a power blogger, nicknamed Druking, at the center of the online rigging case.

Partisan wrangling has deepened after a minor opposition party demanded a special investigation be expanded to President Moon Jae-in and the ruling party, citing Druking's suspected online comment rigging linked to last year's presidential election.

The LKP and other opposition parties are demanding that the probe should be conducted in a similar manner to a 2016 special counsel investigation into a corruption scandal involving then-President Park Geun-hye and her confidante. But the DP has called for the probe to be on a smaller scale.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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