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Moon calls on opposition parties to drop partisan politics

President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday reiterated the importance of the upcoming inter-Korean summit and called for cooperation from the parliament, after political leaders rejected an invitation to accompany him to Pyongyang.

“We should make the upcoming Pyongyang summit an opportunity to lead complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and a peaceful inter-Korean relationship, and to aid breaking the stalemate between the United States and North Korea,” President Moon said at a Cabinet meeting. 

President Moon Jae-in (Yonhap)
President Moon Jae-in (Yonhap)

“To do that, we not only need strong support from the international community, but also support from all political parties. Please put aside party interests and partisan politics at this national juncture.”

Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kim Eui-kyum later confirmed to reporters that Moon will visit Pyongyang with lawmakers who accepted the invitation.

On Monday, presidential chief of staff Im Jong-seok requested the parliamentary leadership and heads of all five political parties join Moon’s trip to the North for the inter-Korean summit slated for Sept. 18-20.

Cheong Wa Dae’s request backfired, however, as not only opposition leaders but also National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang rejected the invitation, viewing the move as carrying the intention to have them “serve as a foil” next to the president.

Within two hours of Im’s request, six of the nine invited members at the National Assembly had turned down the request. Alongside Lee Hae-chan, chairman of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, only the minor center-left Party for Democracy and Peace and liberal opposition Justice Party expressed willingness to join the trip.

Parliamentary Speaker Moon, a former ruling party lawmaker, concluded that the parliamentary leadership would not accept the presidential request after the two vice speakers -- Reps. Lee Ju-yong of the Liberty Korea Party and Joo Seung-yong of the Bareunmirae Party -- declined the invitation in their trilateral meeting.

“It is better to have a couple of negotiators participating in the dialogue. I wish for the Moon administration to draw out a promise (from the North) to promote practical denuclearization,” Kim Byung-joon, interim chief of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, said upon rejecting Cheong Wa Dae’s request.

The conservative party’s floor leader Rep. Kim Sung-tae also expressed dissatisfaction, saying it would not be normal to bring the parliament and political parties on the trip.

Senior Political Affairs Secretary Han Byung-do visited the party leaders at the National Assembly on Tuesday afternoon to encourage their participation, but was given the cold shoulder.

Han could not meet the interim chief of the Liberty Korea Party as Kim had left for Gumi, North Gyeongsang Province, while Sohn Hak-kyu, head of the Bareunmirae Party, strongly denounced the presidential office, saying it showed a lack of respect for the parliament.

“I had already said I will not go (to Pyongyang) when National Assembly Speaker Moon asked over the phone, but I was surprised when Im made an open invitation at a press meeting (Monday),” Sohn said after meeting Han.

“Making the invitation public was not polite. Did the presidential office intend to make it look as if the opposition parties were rejecting an opportunity they gave?”

The invitation was also extended to Rep. Kang Seok-ho of the Liberty Korea Party, who declined. He currently serves as the chairman of the parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and Unification.

By Jo He-rim (