S Korean parliament flounders as Sewol bill dispute drags on

S Korean parliament flounders as Sewol bill dispute drags on
Part of South Korean passenger ship "Sewol" that has been sinking is seen as South Korean maritime policemen search for passengers in the sea off Jindo.

The deadlock of the "special Sewol bill" is casting doubt over the National Assembly's operations with the two main parties appearing unlikely to reach an agreement acceptable to the victims' families.

The ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy reached a compromise on the bill on Aug. 19 in a last-minute renegotiation.

The agreement, however, was immediately rejected by the families of those who died in the April 16 ferry accident.

The compromise bill would have given the opposition and victims' families more say in drawing up the list of candidates to lead the special counsel investigation into the accident that left more than 300 people dead or missing.

The families and opposition parties had initially pushed to give the committee in charge of the issue investigative rights.

Due mainly to differences over the Sewol bill, few results are expected from the extraordinary session, which in turn will derail the plans for the parliamentary audit and the regular session that begins on Sept. 1.

According to the plans, the parliamentary audit of state agencies is to be held in two separate sessions, the first of which is scheduled to begin on Tuesday. The plans, however, require the parties to process the necessary regulation changes at Monday's plenary session, which is expected to fall apart over the Sewol bill issue.

On Sunday, NPAD interim leader Rep. Park Young-sun called for forming a negotiation committee that includes representatives of the victims' families.

"The situation calls for three-way talks that bring the chiefs of the ruling and opposition parties and the representative of the families," Park said in a meeting with chiefs of local governments. Saying that the families' rejection of the Aug. 19 agreement stems from their distrust of the ruling party and the government, Park called on the Saenuri Party to accept the suggestion.

"The special Sewol bill is no longer only about uncovering the truth, but about resolving the biggest cause of discord in our society."

The ruling party, for its part, is said to be taking on a more flexible stance on the issue with some calling for party leaders to make more concessions.

On Saturday, Saenuri Party chairman Rep. Kim Moo-sung announced that he is prepared to meet with the victims' families at any time.

The Saenuri Party, however, batted aside the NPAD's suggestion of a trilateral committee saying that it was a "dangerous idea that damages parliament democracy."

"The NPAD has broken the agreement twice. Suggesting a trilateral negotiation group without a word of apology to the public and the Saenuri Party goes against the principle of good faith," Saenuri Party floor spokesman Rep. Yoon Young-seok said.

"This is an irresponsible attempt to pass the blame for failing to reach an agreement to an outside (party)."

While political parties look to end the deadlock, relatives of some of the victims have marched on Cheong Wa Dae demanding a meeting with President Park Geun-hye.

Since Friday, a number of victims' relatives have been demonstrating near the presidential office demanding the president intervene in the passage of the Sewol bill, and accusing the government of changing its position on the issue over the past four months.

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