Minor parties oppose huge spending bill
The ruling and main opposition parties said Thursday they would pass the 2019 budget bill, after agreeing to cut spending on inter-Korean economic cooperation and job creation for young people, despite opposition from the minor political parties. These joined hands to continue to protest the budget until the adoption of their electoral reform proposal.
The Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) and the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) agreed to reduce the government’s record 470.5 trillion-won ($426.6 billion) budget by 5.2 trillion won. Instead of spending on inter-Korean projects and job creation, the two parties agreed to add 3.1 trillion won to social overhead capital (SOC) projects and local businesses.
The move came after they initially failed to narrow their differences on the budget. The minor opposition parties called for the introduction of electoral reform along with passage of the budget bill, while the two largest parties remained silent on this. The budget review deadline for next year had already expired last Sunday due to internal fighting among the parties.
The fund for inter-Korean eco- nomic projects, which was originally 1.97 trillion won, was reduced to 990 billion won, double that of this year.
They also agreed to cut 600 billion won spending on job creation from the originally allocated 23.5 trillion won; and pledged to cut 3,000 new civil service recruits from a planned 36,000.
The key controversy is an expected 4 trillion won tax shortfall in revenue from the original budget bill, which the two parties agreed to fill by issuing state bonds.
The government will fill the deficit by repaying debt within this year. For next year, the issuance of state bonds will be limited to 1.8 trillion won.
Three minor opposition parties, the Bareunmirae Party, Party for Democracy and Peace and Justice Party pledged to protest the decision.
Sohn Hak-kyu and Lee Jeong-mi, leaders of Bareunmirae Party and Justice Party, began an indefinite hunger strike Thursday calling for the introduction of an electoral reform system that decides parliamentary seats according to the proportion of winning votes.
The three parties criticized the two parties’ closed-door “political collusion,” which they claim protects the largest parties’ vested interests.