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(2nd LD) Park joins signature-collecting campaign over bills' delay

All News 18:18 January 18, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES with more comments by Park)

SEOUL, Jan. 18 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye on Monday joined an ongoing signature-collecting campaign calling for parliamentary approval for a set of bills meant to revitalize the economy.

Park said she hopes that the National Assembly would heed calls from the public and business organizations and quickly pass the bills.

"I participated in (the campaign) to provide support to you and I hope that the minds of the people and businessmen are well conveyed," Park said after signing her name on a paper in Pangyo, south of Seoul, where she received a report from the government on how to secure momentum for growth.

The rare move underscored Park's latest attempt to exert pressure on the parliament to endorse the bills.

Earlier in the day, dozens of business bodies that speak for South Korea's conglomerates and other companies launched the campaign to collect signatures from 10 million people, about one-fifth of the country's population of 50 million.

Park has made repeated appeals for a parliamentary blessing of the bills, though no major progress has been made amid a political standoff between the rival parties.

Adding to the woes, National Assembly Speaker Chung Ui-hwa has rejected the presidential office's request that he invoke his authority to take a set of economic bills to the floor and put them to a vote.

However, there is no sign that rival parties could work out their differences and pass the bills.

The bills are designed to, among other things, reform South Korea's labor markets and to better protect the country from possible terrorist attacks.

"Now, time is running out for us," Park said, noting that it is urgent for the parliament to pass the bills to avert possible economic difficulty.

She also called on the National Assembly to approve an anti-terrorism bill to protect the lives of South Koreans, citing a string of attacks around the world.

The anti-terrorism bill has gained new momentum following the deadly attacks in Paris last year that killed more than 120 people.

Also on Monday, Park met with business leaders of small and medium-sized enterprises in western Seoul, the first such meeting by a sitting president.

Park first met with SME business leaders in December 2012 as president-elect. At that time, Park vowed to become a president for small and medium enterprises and to shift the economy from one that relies heavily on the exports of large conglomerates to one in which both big and small firms coexist.

Park said Monday that she will pursue policies in a way that could help small companies grow and export more items.

For decades, South Korea's exports have been led by conglomerates, though smaller companies account for 99 percent of all enterprises and 88 percent of all employees in the country.


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