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National Assembly set to hold plenary session over gov't 2019 budget

All Headlines 09:59 December 07, 2018

SEOUL, Dec. 7 (Yonhap) -- The National Assembly is set to open a plenary session Friday to vote on a revised bill on the government's 2019 budget amid minor parties' vehement opposition over bigger rivals' unilateral decision to put it to a vote.

The ruling Democratic Party (DP) and the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) agreed Thursday to cut some 5.2 trillion won (US$4.7 billion) from the government's record 470.5 trillion-won budget bill.

Next year's budget plan is aimed at boosting the slowing economy and spurring job creation, as well as backing up inter-Korean projects.

Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon (R); Hong Young-pyo, the floor leader of the ruling Democratic Party; and Kim Sung-tae, the floor leader of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, pose for a photo before announcing the parties' deal on the government's 2019 budget on Dec. 6, 2018. (Yonhap)

But the agreement did not include commitment to electoral reform, a key sticking point in the budget negotiations, drawing condemnation from minor parties.

The minor opposition Bareunmirae Party (BP) and two minor parties sought to link the budget bill passage to an introduction of a new proportional representation system, a proposal rejected by the DP and the LKP.

The minor parties are pushing for the introduction of a mixed-member proportional (MMP) representation system in which parliamentary seats are tied to the percentage of voters' support for different parties.

They denounced the bigger rivals' agreement as political collusion to defend their vested rights. They are expected to boycott a plenary session slated for 2 p.m., two days ahead of the end of the parliament's regular session.

Sohn Hak-kyu, the chief of the BP, and Lee Jeong-mi, the chairwoman of the leftist Justice Party, started a hunger strike Thursday in protest.

"It is questionable that the two major parties seek to revise the election law following the passage of the budget bill. They'll never do that!" Sohn said Thursday.

"The electoral reform should go in tandem with the budget proposal passage. I will fast until those go together, and if not, I will devote my life for democracy at this hall of the National Assembly," he added.

This year's budget review did not go smoothly amid partisan wrangling with the legal deadline for its passage expiring Sunday.

Major bones of contention in the original budget bill were an expected 4 trillion-won shortfall in tax revenue that stemmed from tax cuts and the budget set aside for inter-Korean projects and job creation.

Under Thursday's agreement, the two major parties agreed to cut some spending on job creation and inter-Korean cooperation projects and reduce the number of newly hired public servants by some 3,000.

Opposition parties took issue with 1.1 trillion won set aside for inter-Korean projects and a record 23.5 trillion won for job creation.

The parties, meanwhile, decided to increase spending on measures to tackle the low birthrate and ways to build social infrastructure.

They also said that the government should repay debt in advance within this year to fill the 4 trillion-won shortfall in tax revenue. For next year, state bond sales will be limited to 1.8 trillion won.

In 2014, the National Assembly barely made the legal deadline for the budget's passage but has failed to meet it every year since then.

Excluding last year, when a revised budget proposal was passed on Dec. 6, there have been no cases of the budget being passed days after the deadline.

Sohn Hak-kyu, the chairman of the minor opposition Bareunmirae Party, goes on a hunger strike in protest of the ruling and main opposition parties' agreement on the government's 2019 budget on Dec. 7, 2018. (Yonhap)

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
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