SEOUL-- Choo Mi-ae, the leader of the ruling Democratic Party (DP), apologized Monday over the temporary lack of a quorum last week that led to a disconcerting delay in a parliamentary vote on an extra budget bill.

On Saturday, the long-awaited vote on the 11.03 trillion won (US$9.8 billion) extra budget bill was delayed for about an hour due to the absence of 26 DP lawmakers and the members of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party that left the floor in a show of objections.

"We have to use this case to look back on ourselves," Choo said during a meeting with senior party officials. "I apologize to our party members and citizens for causing concerns."

The delay triggered criticism from the public and even some DP members that said the lack of a quorum might reflect complacency when the ruling party dealt with the bill that President Moon Jae-in has been pushing for to create jobs and spur growth.

The failure to meet the quorum of 150 lawmakers came as a surprise given that the ruling party holds 120 seats in the 299-member legislature while the lawmakers of the People's Party and Bareun Party, which agreed to the vote, total 60.

The DP lawmakers in question were reportedly absent for various reasons, such as activities to support their constituencies, overseas business trips and personal affairs, including one giving a private lecture and another visiting a son serving in the military.

Woo Won-shik, the DP floor leader, vowed to craft measures, such as banning overseas trips during a parliamentary session, to prevent party lawmakers from leaving the legislature during key legislative sittings.

"I feel a heavy sense of responsibility and apologize to people that we showed such an unprecedented situation of a delay in the voting process," Woo said.

The supplementary budget was passed Saturday after a week of grueling negotiations. It includes funds to support drought-hit regions, the disabled, the ailing shipbuilding industry, preparations for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics and the installation of air purifiers at elementary schools.

Source: Yonhap News Agency