The National Assembly's foreign affairs committee chief on Thursday called for submitting the long-overdue free trade bill with the U.S. to parliament before Sept. 21 to keep pace with a related move by the U.S. Congress.
The trade deal, first signed in 2007 and modified last year, is one of the most contentious issues in the South Korean parliament. The ruling Grand National Party (GNP) calls for an early ratification, while the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) claims the deal favors the U.S. and should be renegotiated.
Rep. Nam Kyung-pil of the GNP said the lawmakers should present the bill to the parliament no later than next Wednesday when committee members are scheduled to leave the country for parliamentary inspections on government agencies overseas.
"We will decide after hearing opinions from both ruling and opposition parties, but there are growing consensus that it is time to table the ratification bill," Nam said in a senior party meeting.
The stage for a possible showdown will be set during parliamentary inspection sessions for foreign affairs and unification ministries between next Monday and Tuesday, GNP officials noted.