Sewol families face arrest for driver assault

Sewol families face arrest for driver assault

Police on Monday asked the court to issue arrest warrants for three relatives of those killed in the April 16 Sewol ferry accident on charges of physically assaulting several passersby and a driver near a bar in western Seoul earlier this month.

At the time of the incident, the three were serving as the bereaved families' representatives in ongoing talks over the special Sewol bill at the National Assembly.

They stepped down from their posts immediately after the incident, but the investigative agency's stern decision to take them into custody is expected to put political pressure on the families to agree to a compromise deal over the Sewol bill, as partisan battles over the bill have stalled the nation's legislature, sparking immense public criticism.

Floor leaders of the nation's main political parties gathered on Monday to end the ongoing parliamentary deadlock, suggesting the parties could mend fences in time for Tuesday's plenary session of the National Assembly.

The closed-door meeting between Reps. Park Young-sun and Lee Wan-koo of the main opposition party New Politics Alliance for Democracy and the ruling Saenuri Party, respectively, appeared to focus on renewing talks over the special Sewol bill.

The floor leaders later in the day held trilateral talks with families of those killed in the ferry accident.

If Monday's meetings succeed in restarting talks between the country's two main parties over the Sewol bill, the main opposition party is expected to halt its parliamentary boycott, ending weeks of legislative paralysis.

In August the NPAD began boycotting all sessions at the legislature to protest the governing party's stance on the Sewol bill. NPAD officials vowed not to return until the ruling party gave in to their demands.

But the boycott triggered public criticism as thousands of draft bills were left pending and annual audits of the government suspended.

The outcry over the boycott reached a new high last Friday when National Assembly Speaker Rep. Chung Eui-hwa adjourned a plenary session, citing the main opposition's absence.

NPAD officials said moderates within the party have been recommending an end to the boycott in the face of growing public frustration.

A comment made by the NPAD's interim chief Rep. Moon Hee-sang earlier Monday also suggested doves in the NPAD's camp were growing stronger.

"We will refocus our energy on putting up a formidable fight against the ruling party within the parliament," the five-term lawmaker said, echoing calls by NPAD moderates for the party to return to the Assembly.

Although the minutes of Monday's meetings between the ruling and opposition parties and the bereaved families of the Sewol tragedy were undisclosed, Saenuri officials showed signs they were willing to play ball, as part of efforts to open Tuesday's plenary session.

"I am disappointed (at the current impasse) but I will meet Rep. Park (of the NPAD) even if our talks produce no meaningful results," Lee of the governing party said.

If Tuesday's plenary session is held, lawmakers are likely to pass some 90 draft bills that have passed related committee reviews. Over 7,000 pieces of draft legislation still await parliamentary review.

Reviews of pending legislation are unlikely to begin, though, until parties reach a final agreement over the special Sewol bill.

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