A proposed meeting between the president and the leaders of five political parties -- suggested to resolve the parliamentary deadlock -- has worsened the tug of war between the ruling and opposition blocs.
On Tuesday, Cheong Wa Dae revealed plans for a meeting between President Moon Jae-in and the leaders of the five parties, to be followed by a one-on-one meeting with Liberty Korea Party Chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn.
Cheong Wa Dae said it had suggested the meeting be held Friday, in a bid to facilitate the normalization of the National Assembly before Moon leaves for a trip to Europe on Sunday.
Moon had first suggested meeting the leaders of the parties last month, but the Liberty Korea Party had rejected the idea, suggesting instead a one-on-one meeting between its leader and Moon -- which was not accepted by Cheong Wa Dae.
Although the latest plan was intended to appease Hwang, the Liberty Korea Party has intensified its attack on the administration.
In response to Cheong Wa Dae’s suggestion, the main opposition called for a meeting of the leaders of the three parties with negotiation group status -- the ruling Democratic Party, the Liberty Korea Party and the Bareunmirae Party -- followed by a Moon-Hwang meeting.
The two minor opposition parties -- the Justice Party and the Party for Democracy and Peace -- are not negotiation groups, as they hold less than 20 assembly seats.
“If President Moon truly wants normalization of the assembly, an apology and retraction of the illegal fast-tracking must come first,” Hwang said at a party meeting Tuesday. He added that the Liberty Korea Party is willing to return to the National Assembly and cooperate with state affairs if Moon gives in to these requests.
Hwang was referring to the ruling party and minor opposition parties fast-tracking a number of bills despite the Liberty Korea Party’s opposition. The fast-tracked bills include that on election reform and establishing an independent body to investigate high-ranking government officials.
In protest of related developments and to rally support from its conservative base, the Liberty Korea Party has boycotted parliamentary operations, choosing instead to hold rallies around the country.
Hwang went on to criticize the Moon administration’s economic policies and accused the presidential office of ignoring its errors and placing the burden of seeking solutions on the National Assembly.
“Cheong Wa Dae leaked (information about) talks with our party to the media, and (is) even attempting a ploy to exclude the main opposition, and hold a meeting with (the other) four parties.”
Although the main opposition appears to be digging in for a protracted standoff, Cheong Wa Dae seems unwilling to make further concessions.
High-level Cheong Wa Dae officials have since said that the Liberty Korea Party’s demands to expand the agenda of the meeting were accepted, but that limiting the meeting to negotiation groups was not acceptable.
Moon had initially suggested meeting with the leaders of the five parties to discuss the matter of providing food aid to North Korea and security issues, but the main opposition had immediately rejected the idea, demanding all current issues to be put on the table.
The ruling party has also joined the fray, accusing Hwang of discourtesy against the president and voters, and the Liberty Korea Party of aggravating the situation.
“It is a discourtesy to the president, and furthermore to the people who elected the president. I think the right thing is for Hwang to accept Cheong Wa Dae’s suggestion,” Democratic Party Floor Leader Rep. Lee In-young said in a radio interview Wednesday, adding that Hwang has rejected Cheong Wa Dae’s suggestions for a meeting on three occasions, each time making counter suggestions.
Saying that the Liberty Korea Party has also rejected suggestions made for inter-party negotiations and minor opposition parties’ call for an extraordinary parliamentary session, Lee urged Hwang to take steps to normalize the assembly.
“The Liberty Korea Party has boycotted the parliament 17 times just in the 20th National Assembly. (I) have never seen such irresponsibility. Damage (caused by National Assembly’s standstill) goes to the people and businesses.”
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com