South Korean MPs in deadlock

  • AseanPlus News
  • Saturday, 04 Dec 2004

SEOUL: South Korea's Parliament was deadlocked yesterday after feuding lawmakers failed to pass key bills on reforming big business and kick-starting the economy. 

The ruling Uri Party and the opposition Grand National Party (GNP) are unlikely to settle their differences before Parliament goes into the year-end recess next Thursday. 

Despite its slender majority, the reformist Uri Party of President Roh Moo-Hyun was unable to push the laws through the National Assembly in an overnight session that was eventually abandoned in the early hours of yesterday. 

The GNP supports big business in its opposition to a measure that seeks to curb the power of the country's large business conglomerates, known here as chaebol. 

The bill, a revision to the Fair Trade Law, would limit chaebol voting rights in other companies to 15% by 2008, down from the current 30%. 

It would also restore to the state financial watchdog the right to investigate chaebol bank accounts for evidence of illegal inter-unit transactions with the aim of ensuring a level playing field for companies outside the orbit of the chaebol. 

The conglomerates are strongly opposed to the bill, which they say would restrict their activities and undermine competitiveness, making them vulnerable to hostile take-overs by foreign investors. 

Three other bills focusing on the economy are also stalled in Parliament, including one authorising the investment of national pension funds and other state funds in the economy to stimulate growth. 

The Uri Party said it might call an extraordinary session of Parliament early next year to address the legislation. 

The conglomerates, whose reckless expansion was partly blamed for causing the 1997-1998 economic crisis in South Korea, have been under pressure to improve transparency and corporate governance. 

South Korea's big business groups, citing sluggish investment, in turn have urged the government to ease corporate restrictions, complaining that they are discriminated against in the face of mounting competition from abroad. – AFP  


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