Warship sinking dominates S. Korean parliamentary session

15:43, June 10, 2010      

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South Korean parliament hardly fails to offer something much more dramatic than just a long legislative process. The extraordinary parliamentary session in June, which just opened earlier this week, is also expected to show parliamentary politics at its best over South Korea's most pressing issue today -- the warship sinking.

The deadly sinking of a South Korean warship in late March, which a multinational probe concluded was caused by a torpedo attack from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), has emerged as the biggest issue facing members of the parliament. An ad hoc parliamentary committee is set to resume its independent investigations into the incident, a subject of constant rumor and conjecture.

The committee, composed of lawmakers from the opposite ends of the political spectrum, has made little progress since its inception last month due to partisan divide and local elections that consumed the attention of lawmakers.

The liberal main opposition Democratic Party (DP), which maintains a softer stance toward Pyongyang, is expected to take the separate probe as a chance to find faults with the previous investigation findings that some skeptics said were not quite convincing.

The Democrats will call on the government and the ruling Grand National Party (GNP) to hold high-ranking military officials accountable for the perceived blunders in handling the naval disaster, which killed 46 sailors near a disputed sea border between the two Koreas.

The DP has been accusing the governing camp of using the incident for political gains ahead of the local elections held on June 2, a charge apparently backed up by the popular sentiment that gave many of the key posts to the Democrats. Emboldened, the party announced it will put all its efforts into stopping the conservative administration of President Lee Myung-bak's hard-line policies toward Pyongyang and controversial development projects.

Their fight will have political implications in July, when by- elections are scheduled to be held. The GNP has formed an interim leadership in charge of what they call "crisis management" in the wake of the humiliating defeat in local elections, vowing to win over voters' heart.

The ruling party is pushing for adoption of a parliamentary resolution condemning the DPRK for the naval disaster, but the opposition camp is likely to wait until the special committee wraps up its own probe.

"The committee meeting will be finally reconvened on Friday. The Lee administration, which revealed its incompetence on national defense with the sinking, is now showing its lack of diplomatic skills by begging support from other countries," DP's floor leader Park Jie-won said in a meeting Wednesday with senior party officials.

The Grand Nationals, on the other hand, is expected point a finger at the DP as its 10 years of liberal rule and conciliatory policies toward Pyongyang caused a security hole, while calling for bipartisan cooperation on the issue, political observers say." The Democratic Party should quit its nonsense that the government took advantage of the incident," a GNP spokeswoman said in a briefing Thursday. "It should revoke its ambiguous stance toward North Korea (DPRK)."



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