Uncertainty over parliamentary session amid partisan tensions

SEOUL, The National Assembly is scheduled to hold a plenary meeting Thursday to handle economic bills, but it is uncertain whether it can convene due to deepening partisan wrangling.

Rival parties earlier agreed to hold the meeting at 2 p.m., but conservative parties are threatening to boycott parliamentary sessions after President Moon Jae-in pushed ahead with appointing the environment minister without lawmakers’ consent.

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) and the minor opposition Bareunmirae Party called on Moon on Tuesday to sack his top aide for civil affairs for failing to properly vet the minister before his nomination.

They also urged the ruling Democratic Party (DP) to accept a parliamentary probe into an allegation that the Seoul subway operator gave unfair job favors to its employees. The parties vowed not to cooperate with the DP if their two requests are rejected.

The parties’ potential boycotting of parliamentary schedules could delay the National Assembly’s review of the government’s 2019 budget proposal and passage of key bills on the economy.

If a plenary meeting is held as planned, the assembly is expected to handle 90 pending bills.

Earlier in the day, the floor leaders of the rival parties held a closed-door meeting to break the current stalemate, but they failed to reach a compromise.

“To normalize parliament, we’ve made efforts to persuade the ruling party’s floor leader, but the DP did not change,” Kim Kwan-young, the BP’s floor leader, told reporters.

Despite the opposition parties’ threat to boycott the plenary session, the DP said it will push ahead with its opening.

“The meeting will be held as scheduled with lawmakers who will participate,” said Hong Young-pyo, the floor leader of the DP.

He said that lawmakers of the minor Party for Democracy and Peace and the leftist Justice Party will attend the gathering.

Meanwhile, the sub-panel of the public administration committee is expected to deliberate on a bill aimed at toughening punishment for drunk driving Tuesday.

Rival parties earlier agreed to swiftly handle the legislation that calls for heavier penalties for drunk drivers and stricter standards of blood alcohol level. It has been pending at parliament since October.

The bill is called the Yoon Chang-ho act, after a 22-year-old soldier who died last week after being in a coma since he was struck by a drunk driver in the southern port city of Busan in September.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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