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(LEAD) Yoon calls for bipartisan cooperation as opposition boycotts budget speech

All News 11:02 October 25, 2022

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with Yoon's speech; CHANGES headline, photos)
By Lee Haye-ah

SEOUL, Oct. 25 (Yonhap) -- President Yoon Suk-yeol called Tuesday for bipartisan cooperation to cope with threats from North Korea and economic difficulties as he explained his administration's first budget proposal in a parliamentary speech boycotted by the opposition party.

Yoon outlined the details of the 639 trillion won (US$443 billion) proposal in a half-empty National Assembly hall as lawmakers of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) refused to listen in protest of the prosecution's recent raid of its headquarters and other actions it described as suppression of the opposition.

The opposition's boycott of the budget speech was unprecedented, though in the past lawmakers have sometimes held up signs or used other means to express their grievances during budget speeches.

President Yoon Suk-yeol delivers a budget speech at the National Assembly in Seoul on Oct. 25, 2022. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk-yeol delivers a budget speech at the National Assembly in Seoul on Oct. 25, 2022. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

"In order to overcome the grave economic and security situation, there can be no separation between the ruling and opposition parties," Yoon said in his address. "We desperately need the cooperation of the National Assembly."

The 2023 budget proposal is a blueprint for how the government plans to tackle the multiple global challenges and resolve issues affecting people's livelihoods, he said, noting that past governments' careless and politically motivated spending rapidly widened the fiscal deficit, leading to a national debt equivalent to half the country's gross domestic product, of over 1,000 trillion won.

"It is more important than anything to soundly manage national finances and secure international credit ratings at a time of high interest rates worldwide and financial instability," Yoon said.

"Moreover, it is very important for national finances to stand soundly to enable a sustainable and virtuous cycle of economic growth and welfare for the weak," he added.

Yoon also pointed to security challenges posed by North Korea, including its recent ballistic missile tests and threats.

"These are a grave violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions and a direct challenge to the international community," he said. "Not only have they openly stated their intentions to preemptively use nuclear weapons, it appears they have already completed preparations for a seventh nuclear test."

Yoon pledged to strengthen deterrence against North Korea using "overwhelming" capabilities through the combined defense posture with the United States and security cooperation with the U.S. and Japan.

"If North Korea decides to denuclearize and comes forward for dialogue, our government will do everything to provide political and economic assistance under our 'audacious plan,'" he said, referring to his initiative for providing massive aid to the North in exchange for a denuclearization commitment.

The speech came a day after prosecutors raided the DP headquarters to seize evidence related to a corruption scandal that led to the arrest of a key confidant of DP leader Lee Jae-myung over the weekend.

The DP had demanded Yoon agree to an independent counsel probe into the scandal before he delivered the budget speech.

The party had also said Yoon should apologize for suppressing the opposition through the prosecution's investigation, which it fears is zeroing in on Lee.

President Yoon Suk-yeol (C) enters a plenary session of the National Assembly in Seoul on Oct. 25, 2022, to give a speech on next year's fiscal policy amid the main opposition Democratic Party's boycott of the session over what it calls suppression of the opposition. The party boycotted the session after the prosecution raided the office of Kim Yong, a longtime close aide to Lee, the previous day over allegations that Kim is involved in an illegal presidential campaign fund. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk-yeol (C) enters a plenary session of the National Assembly in Seoul on Oct. 25, 2022, to give a speech on next year's fiscal policy amid the main opposition Democratic Party's boycott of the session over what it calls suppression of the opposition. The party boycotted the session after the prosecution raided the office of Kim Yong, a longtime close aide to Lee, the previous day over allegations that Kim is involved in an illegal presidential campaign fund. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

Lee Jae-myung (C, 1st row), chief of the main opposition Democratic Party, and the party's lawmakers stage a protest rally as President Yoon Suk-yeol arrives to give a speech on next year's fiscal policy at a plenary session of the National Assembly in Seoul on Oct. 25, 2022. The party boycotted the session over what it calls supression of the opposition following the prosecution's raid the previous day of the office of Kim Yong, a longtime close aide to Lee, over allegations that Kim is involved in an illegal presidential campaign fund. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

Lee Jae-myung (C, 1st row), chief of the main opposition Democratic Party, and the party's lawmakers stage a protest rally as President Yoon Suk-yeol arrives to give a speech on next year's fiscal policy at a plenary session of the National Assembly in Seoul on Oct. 25, 2022. The party boycotted the session over what it calls supression of the opposition following the prosecution's raid the previous day of the office of Kim Yong, a longtime close aide to Lee, over allegations that Kim is involved in an illegal presidential campaign fund. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

hague@yna.co.kr
(END)

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