Parties agree to put controversial Sejong City bill to full parliamentary vote

Park Sae-jin Reporter() | Posted : June 28, 2010, 17:36 | Updated : June 28, 2010, 17:36
Floor leaders of ruling and opposition parties agreed to vote Tuesday on a controversial revision to the planned relocation of key government offices out of Seoul, parliamentary sources said.

   The Sejong City revisions were rejected in a vote last week by a parliamentary standing committee. But the government and the ruling Grand National Party (GNP) pushed for a full plenary vote at the National Assembly, arguing that each lawmaker must be given a chance to decide on the issue.

   By law, a bill endorsed by more than 30 lawmakers can be put to a full floor vote even if it is struck down by a committee. The GNP's Rep. Lim Dong-kyu collected signatures of 65 legislators supporting a plenary vote.
Opposition parties, including the main opposition Democratic Party (DP), had initially opposed the move.

   In 2005, the then government of President Roh Moo-hyun, with parliamentary consent, decided to relocate nine government ministries and four subsidiary agencies to Sejong City, about 150 kilometers south of Seoul, by 2030. The aim of the liberal government was to decentralize the capital city, where about a quarter of the country's population of 49 million resides, and to promote balanced regional development.

   Backed by conservative views that the relocation would only cause administrative inefficiency by creating a second capital, the Lee Myung-bak government has been pushing to scrap the plan and instead build a science and technology town there.

   The revision has angered opposition parties, who accuse the government of breaking a promise made to the people. The GNP also lost traction after garnering disappointing results in the June 2 local elections.

   The opposition is counting on the plenary vote to also reject the revisions. Dozens of non-mainstream ruling party lawmakers, together with opposition members, are said to oppose them.

   For passage in the 291-member session, the bill must get at least 146 ayes. Only about 100 lawmakers, mostly affiliated with the pro-Lee GNP faction, are believed to support it.

   Rival parties also agreed to pass a bill to launch an independent counsel's investigation into a corruption scandal involving dozens of incumbent prosecutors.

   The scandal came to light in late April when a former construction company chief went on television claiming he had bribed several dozen prosecutors with cash, gifts, free meals and prostitution services for more than 20 years. The case grew into a full-blown controversy dubbed the "sponsor scandal."
Under the bill, the 103-member special counsel team will investigate the case for 35 days after a 20-day preparation period, after which it can extend the probe for another 20 days. /Yonhap News

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