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(3rd LD) Ruling party, parliament speaker seek reconciliation

All Headlines 19:15 September 02, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES with details throughout)

SEOUL, Sept. 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's ruling Saenuri Party agreed to return to the National Assembly and end the protest against the parliamentary speaker on Friday, ending the struggle sparked by progressive-leaning remark made by the speaker earlier this week.

Following the decision, the Saenuri agreed to hold a regular session on Friday to pass the much-awaited extra budget bill. The parliamentary session, however, will be chaired by vice speaker Park Joo-sun of the minor People's Party.

On Thursday, the ruling party refused to join any of the scheduled parliamentary events, after Chung lent support to opposition parties on the deployment of a U.S. missile defense system.

During the opening speech of the regular parliamentary session on Thursday, National Assembly Speaker Chung Sye-kyun criticized the government's move to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system that Seoul agreed to host in July.

The conservative Saenuri claims the defense system is vital for coping with North Korea's evolving missile threats, while the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea and the smaller People's Party stress Seoul should refrain from taking steps that would antagonize Beijing.

Chung said he feels responsible for causing delays on parliamentary procedures, including the extra budget bill, and said he wishes to express an apology to the people.

"The speech came from my heart to reflect the voice of the people, and I would like to make it clear that there were no other intentions," Chung said.

"I would also like to acknowledge the issues which lawmakers of Saenuri pointed out (concerning political neutrality), he added.

Chung, a six-term lawmaker, is originally from Minjoo, although he left the party after being tapped as the parliament speaker in accordance with South Korean law.

Saenuri had said the remark violated the legal obligation of the office to maintain political neutrality.

The protest by Saenuri had emerged as a major drag on core parliamentary issues, such as the passage of the extra budget bill.

National Assembly Speaker Chung Sye-kyun (Yonhap)

colin@yna.co.kr
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