President Park Geun-hye on Monday showed her stern rejection of a bill that would allow lawmakers to demand an amendment to government enforcement ordinances, raising speculation that she may exercise her veto power on the revised legislation for the first time, citing unconstitutionality.
During a meeting with senior secretaries at Cheong Wa Dae, Park blasted the parliament's decision reached Friday, lashing out that it could paralyze the function of the executive branch and seriously damage people's livelihoods and the nation's economy.
"(The bill) would eventually paralyze state affairs and the government would become lethargic," she said. "So the government cannot accept the revised bill on parliamentary law." The president's rejection was widely seen as indicating her intention to use her veto if no changes are made to the bill before it reaches the stage of her endorsement.
It was also viewed as showing Park's willingness to block the bill at all costs despite it being a crucial time for her to earn the cooperation of the National Assembly in getting her reform bills and the new prime minister approved.
The president can constitutionally exercise a veto within the 15-day period after the parliament sends a bill to receive the president's signature. If the president returns the bill, the parliament is required to put the bill up for vote again.
To override the president's veto, the Assembly would require approval from more than two thirds of attending lawmakers. If it fails to meet the quorum, the bill would automatically be scrapped.
Citing that similar bills in the past have failed to pass the Assembly as it was viewed as unconstitutional, Park urged the lawmakers to revise the bill.
She also slammed both parties for "hastily passing" the bill in exchange for reaching a compromise on a separate reform bill on civil servants' pension system.
The controversial parliamentary law was revised in a plenary session last week as a condition to pass a reform bill on public servants' pensions proposed by the ruling party.
The bill requires government agencies to review their ordinances upon a request by the parliament. The bill was pushed by the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy as it was seeking for a change to the government's decree that allows public officials to take part in an independent probe into the sinking of the Sewol ferry last year.
Cheong Wa Dae instantly opposed the revision, calling it a violation of the constitutional principle that stipulates the division of powers. The bill could also infringe on the executive branch's right to enact laws, it said.
The presidential office also urged the rival parties to clarify their positions over the exact requirements set by the bill, namely the forcibleness the parties' "demand" would have on the government enforcement ordinances.
The ruling party has said the clause would only enable the lawmakers to voice their concerns over any controversial ordinance, while the opposition argued it would have a binding force for the government to make due changes upon legislative opposition.
Park's strong wordings also exposed widening cracks among the ruling camp.
Saenuri lawmakers from the Pro-Park faction publicly slammed the party's non-mainstream leaders, chairman Kim Moo-sung and floor leader Yoo Seung-min, for succumbing to the opposition's demand at the cost of risking a violation to the Constitution.
Saenuri chief Kim, for the time being, is keeping a low profile, saying that the party remains in sync with the president. "The president and the party cannot have different views," he told reporters after a supreme council meeting.
The NPAD, meanwhile, denounced Park for rejecting the bill, saying she was declaring a war against the legislature.
NPAD chairman Moon Jae-in criticized the president, saying her remarks were "too much" and urged the government to draft ordinances in accordance with the law as legislated by the parliament in the future.
"Legislation rights basically belong to the National Assembly. The government needs to draft an enforcement ordinance within the authority delegated by the law in the first place," he said.
The issue drew mixed views from legal experts here with some claiming that the bill violates the Constitution because it carries legal binding power that allows the lawmakers to force the government to revise its ordinance. Officials would have no right to veto the request, they added.
Law professor Lee Sang-don of Chung-Ang University in Seoul, however, said the bill does not carry unconstitutional elements because it is not about using "the legislative veto." "The bill does not give the parliament the right or legal force to invalidate the government's ordinances. I hardly see that the bill violates the Constitution," he said.