Parties resume negotiations over next year's budget bill

이준혁 입력 2022. 12. 4. 18:02
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Korea's main political parties resumed negotiations Sunday over the government's budget proposal for next year, which the National Assembly failed to pass by Friday's legal deadline.
National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin-pyo, right, enters his office at the National Assembly on Friday. [YONHAP]

Korea's main political parties resumed negotiations Sunday over the government's budget proposal for next year, which the National Assembly failed to pass by Friday's legal deadline amid several budget allocation disagreements and the parties' standoff over a pending no-confidence motion against the interior minister.

Talks between the two parties began at 4 p.m. and were conducted via a working group of four lawmakers, with two drawn from both the conservative People Power Party (PPP) and the liberal Democratic Party (DP).

The working group was formed following mediation by National Assembly Speaker Kim Jin-pyo, who met with both parties' floor leaders on Friday.

The PPP is represented in the working group by its policy committee chairman, Rep. Sung Il-jong, and Rep. Lee Chul-gyu, who sits on the National Assembly's Special Committee on Budget and Accounts as an executive secretary. Their DP counterparts in the working group are Rep. Kim Sung-whan and Rep. Park Jeung.

If the four lawmakers manage to narrow their differences over the government's budget proposal and reach an agreement by Monday, a budget bill is expected to be passed by a plenary session of the legislature this Thursday or Friday, the last day of the parliamentary session that began in September.

Disagreements between the two major parties remain on budget allotment for key projects of the Yoon administration such as the creation of Yongsan Park in the site vacated by the United States Forces Korea (USFK). The DP wants to completely scrap the budget allotment for the park, set at around 30 billion won ($23 million).

The DP also has plans to cut the budget for the Yoon administration's real estate projects, and instead finance real estate projects put forward by DP Chairman Lee Jae-myung, who lost to Yoon in the presidential election last March.

PPP floor leader Joo Ho-young met with DP floor leader Park Hong-keun on Thursday to try to narrow the differences, but failed to reach a consensus.

There have only been two times since 2014 that the Assembly was able to pass the budget bill before the legal deadline: on Dec. 2 of 2014 and 2020.

In a speech to the National Assembly in October, Yoon said his administration set the budget for 2023 at 639 trillion won, which was 5.2 percent higher than this year.

Last Friday, Dec. 2, was the legal deadline set by the Constitution for the legislature to pass the first annual budget plan drawn up by President Yoon Suk-yeol's administration since it came to power in May.

Speaker Kim said in a statement Friday that passing next year's national budget should be the National Assembly's "top priority" amid sluggish exports and a global economic slowdown.

Partisan fighting over follow-up measures to the deadly crowd crush in Seoul on Oct. 29 have also affected budget negotiations.

Although the two main parties agreed to conduct a special counsel probe into the tragedy, the DP on Wednesday put forth a no-confidence motion against Interior Minister Lee Sang-min to hold him accountable for inadequate public safety measures that led to the death of 158 people in a Halloween celebration in the Itaewon nightlife quarter in Yongsan District, central Seoul.

The DP wants a plenary session to pass the motion, and has threatened to escalate to impeachment if President Yoon refuses to sack Lee.

The PPP, which agreed to take part in a special counsel probe on the condition that next year's budget plan is handled, is now hinting it could boycott the probe if the DP tries to pass the no-confidence motion with its 169-seat majority in the 300-member National Assembly.

BY MICHAEL LEE [lee.junhyuk@joongang.co.kr]

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