S. Korea’s parliament wraps up annual audit of gov’t agencies

SEOUL, The National Assembly wrapped up its 20-day annual audit of government agencies Monday dominated by disputes over North Korea, corruption scandals and President Moon Jae-in's income-driven growth policy.

Fourteen out of 17 parliamentary standing committees have examined the performance of 734 government agencies since Oct. 10.

The three remaining panels, including the intelligence committee, will conduct separate audits of 19 organizations from Tuesday to Nov. 7.

This year's audit was the first full-year assessment of the Moon government, which took office in May 2017.

On the final day, the unification and defense committees continued to bicker over Moon's recent ratification of his third summit agreement with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and an inter-Korean military agreement, both signed Sept. 19, without parliamentary consent.

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) deemed the move a violation of the Constitution, under which ratification of treaties with foreign nations pertaining to national security and needing budget spending are subject to parliamentary consent.

The ruling Democratic Party (DP) said that parliamentary consent for those deals is not necessary as they are annexed to the April inter-Korean summit agreement, which is pending at the National Assembly for its consent to ratification.

The party also argued the deals should be dealt with not by the constitutional clause but a law on inter-Korean ties, which defines North Korea as an entity in a special relationship with the South, not as a nation state. They also do not carry serious burdens of fiscal spending, the DP claimed.

Meanwhile, the ruling party and some opposition parties' move to set up a special tribunal for a judiciary power abuse scandal was intensively debated during the legislation committee's audits of the Supreme Court and the legislation ministry.

Four parties, including the DP, announced last week they will push for a motion to establish a special panel of judges to try an allegation that ex-Supreme Court Chief Justice Yang Sung-tae used trials in its dealing with the presidential office.

The LKP, which did not join the move, claimed that the drive will hamper the principle of separating legislative, administrative and judicial powers.

Nepotism allegations at the Seoul subway operator under the city government were the main issue during the audits on the interior ministry.

The LKP and minor opposition parties are calling for a possible parliamentary probe into an allegation that Seoul Metro has given unfair job favors to its current and former employees.

The DP said that it is open to accepting the proposed investigation, but the state audit agency's probe should be prioritized.

The impact of the government's income-led growth policy also topped the agenda during parties' audits of the finance ministry and the central bank.

Opposition parties have blamed Moon's economic policy for sluggish job markets.

Income-driven growth, one of the three pillars of the Moon government's economic policy, aims to spur growth by increasing poor people's incomes and consumption.

In a related move, the government has hiked the minimum wage twice, but the move has apparently had the unintended effect of hampering job growth.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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