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SEWOL DISASTER: Issue to dominate Assembly session

Publication Date : 19-05-2014

 

The National Assembly’s monthlong extraordinary session that begins Monday is likely to be a bumpy ride with rival parties clashing over key issues surrounding the sunken ferry Sewol.

Although the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy have agreed to open the session, dubbed the “Sewol National Assembly,” the two sides are far from seeing eye-to-eye on the details.

Under the agreed plans, a request for a parliamentary investigation will be submitted on Tuesday, followed by a two-day session grilling concerned government officials starting Wednesday. On May 27, the parties will process the plans for the parliamentary investigation and also select the new parliamentary speaker.

However, the parties remain divided over the details of the investigation, including its duration, the schedule for the hearings and even the composition of the special committee and the organisations subjected to questioning.

In addition, the NPAD plans to focus on government organisations’ shortcomings in responding to the disaster while the ruling party is expected to concentrate on follow-up measures and uncovering the cause of the accident.

Buoyed by Friday’s comments from President Park Geun-hye, the main opposition is expected to push the matter of legislating special acts and launching a special counsel investigation with renewed drive.

In a meeting with victims’ families, Park said that special acts and a special counsel investigation were necessary.

The NPAD’s demands for the special act includes clauses that stipulate legal penalties for bearing false witness and refusing to cooperate with the parliamentary hearing.

The ruling party, whose leaders expressed reservations about such matters before the president made the comments, is likely to approach the issue more cautiously.

Regarding the special counsel investigation, the two parties are unlikely to reach a consensus, with the Saenuri Party and NPAD bickering over its timing and scope, as well as the appointment of the special counsel.

As for parliamentary speaker selection, the election has become a two-way race between ruling party’s Reps. Hwang Woo-yea and Chung Ui-hwa. Hwang, former Saenuri Party chairman, is a member of the pro-Park Geun-hye faction while Chung is associated with the pro-Lee Myung-bak faction.

 

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