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(LEAD) Speaker, party chiefs hold first meeting over key judiciary, election reform bills

Politics 16:54 October 11, 2019

(ATTN: ADDS more details in paras 4-6)

SEOUL, Oct. 11 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's parliamentary speaker and the chiefs of four political parties launched their first political meeting Friday to discuss ways to handle key judiciary and election reform bills that have been placed on the fast track.

But Hwang Kyo-ahn, head of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP), boycotted the gathering, raising doubts over whether discussions over the reform bills could go smoothly.

National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang presided over the meeting that brought together Lee Hae-chan, chairman of the ruling Democratic Party, and chiefs of three small parties.

During their monthly meeting held Monday, they agreed to launch a new form of political talks over the reform bills.

"A working-level team will be formed to negotiate details," Han Min-soo, parliamentary spokesman, told reporters.

They reportedly exchanged views about the need for President Moon Jae-in to meet with the chiefs of five political parties to break the current political impasse, including controversy surrounding the scandal-hit justice minister.

In late April, parliamentary panels designate a set of the reform bills as fast-track proposals in line with the four parties' agreement despite strong objections from the LKP.

The bills include the adoption of a new proportional representation system; the establishment of a unit to investigate alleged corruption by high-ranking government and public officials; and enhancing the police's authority to conduct probes.

Once a bill is put on a fast track, it can be automatically put to a vote at a plenary session even when relevant committees fail to deliberate or approve it within a given period.

In particular, the judiciary reform bills drew attention amid political turmoil over Justice Minister Cho Kuk. His family is under a prosecution probe into allegations of corruption.

Earlier this week, Cho unveiled a set of measures to reform the prosecution that focus on improving the practice of probes and prioritizing human rights.

Rival parties were divided over when it will be possible for the political reform bills to be put to a vote at a plenary session. A parliamentary standing committee needs to finish its review of the bills by Nov. 26.

The ruling DP insists that as the legislation and judiciary committee, a key panel for the passage of bills, is in charge of reviewing such bills, it does not need to hold a separate session to adjust the wording of the proposals. But the LKP called for the panel's 90-day separate review session.

As for the election reform bill, it can be put to a vote any time after Nov. 26 when it was handed over to the legislation committee for review.

These photos show chiefs of four political parties entering a Seoul hotel for their meeting with National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang over key judiciary and election reform bills. (Yonhap)


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