Opposition set to mount pressure on Yoon after fruitless meeting

President Yoon Suk Yeol shakes hands with main opposition Democratic Party of Korea Chairman Lee Jae-myung during a photo session after their meeting at Yoon's office in Yongsan District, Seoul, Monday. Courtesy of presidential office

The main opposition Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) is increasing pressure on President Yoon Suk Yeol after a meeting between Yoon and DPK Chairman Lee Jae-myung on Monday further underscored their differing stances on key political issues.The DPK, now in control of the National Assembly and poised to expand its majority in the next (22nd) Assembly, is preparing to unilaterally pass contentious bills that Lee urged the president to accept during their 135-minute meeting.As bills pending at the current Assembly will be automatically scrapped when it closes on May 29, the DPK is pushing to open a plenary session in May to pass them. Meanwhile, the ruling People Power Party (PPP), which opposes those bills, remains reluctant.”The Assembly must hold a plenary session on Thursday and pass a bill to launch a special counsel probe into allegations surrounding the death of Marine Cpl. Chae Su-geun and a bill for a special act on home leasing fraud cases,” DPK floor leader Rep. Hong Ihk-pyo said during a party meeting Tuesday.”Failing to pass those bills would be seen as a shameful outcome for the current 21st Assembly in the eyes of the public,” Hong added.The ruling and the opposition blocs have locked horns over the two bills Hong mentioned.The DPK has been advocating for a special counsel probe into Chae’s case amid suspicions that the Yoon administration influenced the military’s investigation into the death of the Marine. There are concerns that the administration sought to downplay the responsibilities of ranking military officers involved in the incident, which occurred last year during a search-and-rescue operation after floods.Yoon’s appointment of then-Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup as ambassador to Australia in early April further amplified speculation that the president tried to help him avoid being investigated.The special act on home leasing fraud cases aims to assist victims who have not received their lease deposits back under Korea’s home renting system known as “jeonse.” In this arrangement, tenants pay a lump sum refundable deposit for the term of the contract instead of monthly rent.The ruling bloc opposes the act because it requires the government to initially return the deposits to the victims using funds from the state-run Korea Housing and Urban Guarantee Corp., which would then be recovered from dishonest landlords. If the bill is passed, it would necessitate an additional expenditure of 3 to 4 trillion won ($2.18 billion to $2.9 billion).

In his opening remarks during Monday’s meeting, the DPK chairman urged the president to accept bills passed by the Assembly, including those related to Chae’s case, and to refrain from exercising presidential veto power over them. However, the president did not respond to those requests, and the topics were not discussed further at the meeting.”Apart from the special counsel probe bill, there are other pending bills at the Assembly that have to do with the public’s livelihood,” Hong said. “By all means, we will hold the Assembly’s plenary session in May. As the law states and the public orders, the government and the ruling party should cooperate to convene a plenary session.”Even after the current Assembly concludes, the DPK plans to continue pressuring Yoon in the next Assembly by reintroducing nine bills he rejected over the past two years of his presidency. One of those bills includes a special counsel probe into stock manipulation allegations involving the first lady, Kim Keon Hee.Rep. Jin Sung-joon, the DPK’s chief policymaker who accompanied Lee to the meeting, also slammed the president, saying Yoon “turned a deaf ear” to the party’s requests.”The DPK will continue persuading the president and the government and raise its voice,” Jin said. “However, we will not stop there. We will steadily push forward with our legislative and policy plans aimed at restoring the public’s livelihood and establishing a more righteous nation as we planned.”Political analysts suggest that the DPK’s assertive push reflects its confidence in having the upper hand over the ruling bloc. This confidence was highlighted during the Yoon-Lee meeting, where the DPK leader directly and extensively conveyed demands to the president in front of reporters.”Lee used the meeting as a podium declaring the DPK’s demands as if he was the president,” said Eom Kyeong-young, director of the Zeitgeist Institute, a private political think tank.”Knowing that the president is unable to and will not accept most of the demands, Lee conveyed the DPK’s demands to the public and criticized the president in front of him,” Eom added. “Even though Yoon spent most of the closed-door meeting to explain why he must reject Lee’s demands, who knows that?””This incident provided a strong justification for the main opposition party 스포츠토토존 to urge the Assembly to convene a plenary session and unilaterally advance the special counsel probe bill related to Chae’s case,” he said.

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