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(2nd LD) Rival parties reach agreement on gov't restructuring plan

All Headlines 20:57 March 17, 2013

(ATTN:ADDS with President Park's reaction at para 4-5; 10-12)

SEOUL, March 17 (Yonhap) -- Rival parties on Sunday agreed to pass President Park Geun-hye's government restructuring plan through parliament, lawmakers said Sunday, potentially ending the political standoff that has left the newly launched administration in limbo since its inauguration last month.

The agreement was made between floor leaders and deputy floor leaders of the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP).

The two parties will put the government restructuring and other bills included in the agreement to a full floor vote on Wednesday and Thursday, said Kim Gi-hyeon and Woo Won-shik, deputy floor leaders of Saenuri and DUP, respectively.

Following the announcement of the agreement, President Park expressed her gratitude to the National Assembly, said presidential spokeswoman Kim Haing.

"I hope that the new government and the opposing parties make joint efforts to revive our economy and create jobs by reinvigorating the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning," Park was quoted as saying.

The government restructuring bill has been stuck in the National Assembly for more than a month due to opposition party fears that the reorganization will strengthen the government's control over the media.

Both sides agreed to give parliamentary approval to the original government overhaul bill that would transfer policies on new media, such as cable TV service operators, satellite channels and digital media broadcasting (DMB), to a new science ministry. The transfer has long been a key source in the recent parliamentary impasse. The future creation and science ministry was one of Park's core campaign pledges, which she said is aimed at building a creative economy powered by scientific and technological innovations.

The Korea Communications Commission (KCC), the nation's broadcasting watchdog, will continue to handle conventional broadcasting policies, such as regulating terrestrial broadcasting stations, cable TV program providers and commercials, the parties said.

The parties, instead, agreed to organize a special parliamentary committee to ensure fair broadcasting journalism, they said.

With the government restructuring bill forecast to be passed on Wednesday by parliament, the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae will call for parliament to open confirmation hearings for minster nominees of the science ministry and the fisheries ministry as early as Friday, the presidential spokewoman said.

The appointment of the two nominees has been delayed by the two main parties' different views on the bill.

The Park Geun-hye government created the science ministry as well as revived the fisheries and maritime ministry five years after the Lee Myung-bak government scrapped it.

Meanwhile, the parties also agreed to launch a parliamentary probe into the four-rivers refurbishment project by the former Lee Myung-bak administration, after a previous probe by state auditors was found to be insufficient.

Lawmakers will also launch a parliamentary probe into suspicions that the National Intelligence Service (NIS) attempted to influence the last presidential election through having one of its employees post politically sensitive posts online.

Police have been questioning a 29-year-old female NIS employee on suspicions that she tried to influence the Dec. 19, 2012 presidential election by writing more than 120 online posts about politically sensitive issues under multiple IDs months before the polls open.

The parliamentary probe would be conducted following the investigation.

In addition, during this month's extraordinary parliamentary session lawmakers will approve bills necessary to extend the period of levying reduced acquisition taxes for house purchases to help thaw the frozen property market, the parties said.


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