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(LEAD) N. Korea human rights bill derailed in parliament

All News 22:00 January 29, 2016

(ATTN: RECASTS throughout with opposition's boycott of plenary session; CHANGES headline)

SEOUL, Jan. 29 (Yonhap) -- The main opposition party boycotted a parliamentary plenary session, derailing a recent bipartisan deal to vote on two major bills on Friday.

The move hampered last week's deal to vote on one bill meant to help improve North Korea's dismal human rights record and the other aimed at revitalizing the economy.

The bill pertaining to North Korea calls for, among other things, the establishment of a center tasked with collecting information on the North's human rights situation.

Still, the rival parties failed to narrow their differences over the wording of a clause on the bill.

The development is the latest sign of deep divisions among South Koreans on how to deal with North Korea, accused of being one of the world's worst human rights abusers.

It remains unclear whether the parties can work out their differences and put the bill to a vote.

Similar bills were scrapped in recent years as liberal lawmakers have shied away from the issue of the North's human rights out of concerns that it could harm inter-Korean relations.

North Korea has long been accused of human rights abuses, ranging from holding political prisoners in concentration camps to torture and carrying out public executions.

Still, the North has condemned the accusations as a U.S.-led attempt to topple its regime.

The main opposition Minjoo Party said it cannot attend a session just to vote on a bill designed to revitalize the economy.

The bill is aimed at invigorating business activities by easing regulations so that companies can make investments and restructure more easily.

The opposition party proposed that the two parties vote on the bill on economic revitalization and another on redrawing the electoral constituency map.

The current electoral map became invalid by the end of last year.

The rival parties are required to redraw electoral districts as the Constitutional Court ruled in October 2014 that the electoral map was unconstitutional, citing unequal representation.

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