SEOUL (Reuters) - South Koreans were voting in regional elections on Wednesday, with North Korea a key issue for the first time in years and President Lee Myung-bak needing strong wins for the ruling party to push through reforms.
Here are some bills pending in parliament and a reform agenda that Lee and his Grand National Party wants to accomplish.
* Bank of Korea reform -- An amendment would allow the central bank to launch an independent probe of financial companies, including non-bank financial firms, in case the Financial Supervisory Service refuses to share its information. It would also add “financial stability” to its monetary policy goal on top of “price stability.”
* An opposition-proposed amendment to the Bank of Korea Act would require nominees for central bank governor to answer questions before a parliamentary hearing. The bill will not affect the new governor who took office on April 1.
* Poison pill against hostile takeovers -- Government-proposed amendment to the Commerce Law will allow companies protection against takeovers by foreign funds by allowing them to issue new shares to existing shareholders at a pre-set low price, diluting the ownership value of a hostile bidder. Some analysts said the move could hurt minority shareholders by stripping M&A premiums.
* Sejong City -- Five bills to create a new city about an hour south of Seoul that include tax breaks for corporations to relocate and building schools for the children of new arrivals. The proposal to scale back what was once a plan to move some government functions outside of Seoul is a highly charged issue that may not be taken up this session because of the ship sinking.
* Constitutional amendment -- Lee’s GNP wants to begin debate on an amendment that would allow for two-term presidencies. Opposition parties are less keen to engage in the discussions, believing the ruling party will turn it into an election issue.
* Overhaul of the national pension system so it can cope with an aging society. Details are still being worked out.
* A free trade deal with the United States, which also faces a rough ride in the U.S. Congress. The deal could boost the $80 billion annual two-way trade between the United States and South Korea, its seventh largest trading partner, by as much as $20 billion, some estimates say.
* Lee wants reform of the country’s powerful prosecution to make it more accountable and consistent in its approach to politically charged cases.
Editing by Jon Herskovitz and Alex Richardson