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National Assembly approves 2014 budget bill & series of others

Updated: 2014-01-01 PM 6:25:22 (KST)
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There will be no provisional budget necessary, as the 2014 national budget was approved by the National Assembly on early Wednesday morning.
The budget bill, which is worth 340 billion U.S. dollars, was part of a package deal with two other bills, one to reform the National Intelligence Service and the other to attract more foreign investment into the country.
The NIS reform package bans agents from gaining access to government offices and media outlets, and also calls for stricter punishments for agents that do not abide by the new regulations.
Those found guilty of breaking the rules will face a maximum of seven years in prison, up from the current two years.
The so-called foreigners' investment promotion bill allows the subsidiaries of Korea's conglomerates to set up joint ventures with foreign firms without having to own a 100 percent share in the joint firms.
The bill lowers the share ownership to 50 percent.
The parliament also approved a bill that bans new cross-shareholding investments among conglomerate affiliates, a practice that has long been denounced as a tool for owner families to control their business empires with small stakes.
Under the revision, which is expected to take effect in the second half of the new year, subsidiaries of a conglomerate with total assets of more than 4.8 billion dollars cannot engage in new cross-shareholding or circular investments among themselves.
Lawmakers also passed a series of revised tax bills.
One will widen the income range for those subject to the top income tax rate of 38 percent.
The current basement for the top income tax rate is 287-thousand dollars in yearly income, but that will be lowered to 144-thousand dollars.
Under the change, the government says an estimated 90-thousand individuals will end up paying more in income taxes, which will result in an additional 300 million dollars in tax revenue annually.
Ji Myung-kil, Arirang News.

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