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(4th LD) Ruling Saenuri Party to maintain boycott of parliamentary audits

All News 18:30 September 28, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES headline, lead, throughout with details)

SEOUL, Sept. 28 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's Saenuri Party said Wednesday it will continue to boycott the ongoing parliamentary audits despite the request made by its chief to join ongoing proceedings, as the ruling and opposition blocs remain locked over the political neutrality issue of National Assembly Speaker Chung Sye-kyun.

Party chief Rep. Lee Jung-hyun, who is currently on a hunger strike demanding the resignation of Chung, earlier requested Saenuri lawmakers return to parliament and participate in the 20-day audit which kicked off on Monday.

"I will not sit idle in the face of the collapse of democracy and the parliamentary system established by the people," Lee said, adding he will likely continue with his hunger strike until Chung resigns.

Lawmakers of Saenuri, however, said they will not follow Lee's order this time and continue to stay out of the audit. Instead, the party leadership said they will actually join Lee's strike, and engage in a relay hunger protest.

The development comes as Saenuri and the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea (MPK) clashed after Chung expressed apparent support for the passing of a motion to sack a Cabinet minister over alleged ethical lapses.

Chung, who is originally from the Minjoo Party of Korea, fueled the debate when he was heard in a voice recording saying that the ruling party should not "ask for something for free," indicating the speaker may have wanted to utilize the dismissal motion to induce Saenuri to make concessions on other issues that are important to the opposition.

Due to the stalemate, the regular audit has been nearly paralyzed, especially in committees chaired by ruling party lawmakers.

The Saenuri chief claimed the opposition is currently trying to fuel confusion and shake the Park Geun-hye administration ahead of next year's presidential race.

Chung, however, said he has no intention of making an apology.

"It is the obligation of the parliamentary speaker to follow the National Assembly law," Chung told foreign correspondents in Seoul on Wednesday, adding the motion was legitimate and he has nothing more to comment on the ruling party's claim.

"National Assembly Speakers can make political remarks at the appropriate time, as they are not some kind of robot," Chung added concerning the controversy over his neutrality.

The speaker also said anyone violating the parliamentary law or the Constitution must be punished, but he does not agree that he violated any rules.

Chung then said it is regrettable that the regular audit session has been paralyzed by the latest political wrangling.

The opposition bloc urged Lee to end his hunger strike and the ruling party to resume its duties.

Rep. Woo Sang-ho, the floor leader of the MPK, said he is "dumbfounded" by Lee's hunger strike, adding it is the opposition bloc that should be angered by the president's veto of the dismissal motion.

"I cannot understand the ruling party's anger, as it is the opposition parties that should be furious," Woo said, adding that Lee should try to pave the way for negotiations.

Choo Mi-ae, the head of Minjoo, also held a phone conversation with Lee, and asked him to end his hunger strike. A spokesman from the main opposition party said.

Rep. Lee Jung-hyun, head of the ruling Saenuri Party (Yonhap)

colin@yna.co.kr
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