Failure to pass budget bill will result in 650,000 job loss: finance minister

SEOUL, Dec. 1 (Yonhap) -- The failure to pass next year's budget bill on time will mean the loss of 650,000 jobs, the finance minister claimed Sunday, as the rival parties remained locked in a standoff over scandals involving last year's presidential election.

Finance Minister Hyun Oh-seok urged the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) to return to the National Assembly as soon as possible in a meeting with the press.

The DP has declared a boycott of all parliamentary proceedings after the ruling party voted unilaterally to approve the appointment of the country's chief auditor last week, the latest development in a months-long partisan row.

The remarks by the country's top economic policy maker were made a day before the legal dateline for the passage of the budget bill.

"The budget affects everyone from newborns to senior citizens to the underprivileged depended on social security," he said, adding that politics is acting like a "black hole" effectively sucking up all efforts to pass bills critical for the economy.

He said if Seoul has to set up a provisional budget that only permits spending in critical areas, employment projects being pursued by regional administrations will be put on hold. This will wreak havoc on public sector jobs and those set aside for retirees.

Hyun then said that if the budget is not passed, there is no way to spend 23.3 trillion won (US$22 billion) earmarked for social overhead capital works.

The policymaker, meanwhile, said steady appreciation of the Korean won against key currencies should be seen as a sign that adjustments are taking place in the foreign exchange market.

He pointed out that if the Japanese yen weakens significantly, there will likely be a rebound, especially if the national economy recovers.

On concerns that a stronger won will hurt the local economy's competitiveness, the minister said appreciation of the local currency vis-a-vis the yen is bad news but said many exporters are less influenced by foreign exchange rates compared with the past.

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