|President Moon Jae-in speaks during a meeting with his senior aides, Monday. Yonhap|
Parties urged to pass urgent bills for people's livelihoods
By Do Je-hae
President Moon Jae-in urged the political parties Monday to pass pending bills such as the government's 2020 budget amid a National Assembly deadlocked by the rival parties continuing wrangling over the opening of a plenary session.
"The 20th National Assembly is in a state of paralysis," Moon said at the start of a weekly meeting with senior presidential aides at Cheong Wa Dae, according to press pool reports. "It is regrettable considering that this is the time to get fruitful results in legislation and budget execution." This was the first time for Moon to preside over the meeting in three weeks.
The President strongly urged the parties to keep bills relevant to the safety and livelihoods of the people out of political fights. "The 20th National Assembly has continued to be dysfunctional, putting partisan interests ahead of the people's livelihoods, which has regressed our politics. The parties are using bills crucial to the people's livelihoods as bargaining chips. This is unthinkable," Moon said.
The remarks were seen as criticism of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP), which has filed for a filibuster on the 199 bills pending on a vote in the plenary session.
Moon and the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) are placing a priority on passing the 2020 budget, which is aimed at reviving the economy amid bleak growth forecasts for next year and a hopeless job market.
"The deadline for passing the budget has already passed. The budget has a profound impact on our economy and people's lives, and delaying its handling prevents a timely and efficient execution. In particular, we hope that the Assembly will unite in passing the budget swiftly to help overcome internal and external challenges, improve the economic sentiment of the people and businesses, and speed up economic recovery."
DPL floor leader Rep. Lee In-young called on the LKP to cancel its filibuster application during a party meeting to discuss opening the plenary session. "Based on the National Assembly Law, we will be open to finding a way to normalize the Assembly by joining forces with all other parties except the LKP."
President Moon has placed a priority on economic recovery as he started the second half of his term last month. In this regard, his 2020 budget places an emphasis on securing Korea's position as a leader of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, while increasing investment in core industries, such as semiconductors, bio-health and future cars.
During a speech at the Assembly in October to expound on his budget proposal, the President also vowed to help small and medium businesses become more competitive and profitable, while assisting them to hire more people. In particular, the 2020 budget proposal contains plans to expand aid for the self-employed and micro-business owners who have complained that key economic policies such as a swift increase in the minimum wage have made it harder for them to make ends meets.
Moon also made a strong plea for other important pending bills relating to the public safety, including a revision to the Road Traffic Act to ensure safety in school zones.
"The Assembly should take to heart the desperate cries of parents. All bills related to public safety, livelihoods and the economy have a special significance for the people. I sincerely ask the Assembly to reassure the people by doing away with a culture that links such bills to political strife."
No mention was made of a possible Cabinet reshuffle to fill some key posts, such as prime minister and justice minister, a post that has been vacant since Moon's close aide Cho Kuk left amid a widening prosecution investigation into his family and himself regarding corruption allegations.