Time to put politics aside

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Time to put politics aside

Grand National Party Chairman Chung Mong-joon suggested that ruling and opposition party leaders meet with President Lee Myung-bak to resolve the conflict between the legislature and the government.

The Democratic Party has already accepted the invitation. The Blue House says the matter is under consideration, but the president should agree to meet at the earliest date possible. Liberty Forward Party Chair Lee Hoi-chang should be the fourth guest, considering his strong opposition to the president’s plan to revise the Sejong municipal project.

The president and legislative leaders must narrow the gulf between them and resolve these problems through frank and productive talks.

Challenges old and new await Korea in 2010. The world has weathered an extended economic slump and the new year will serve as the starting point for the post-crisis economic order. Korea next year steps into the global limelight by chairing the G-20 summit. North Korea is also at a critical juncture as it weighs its possible return to the six-party talks and the issue of power succession.

We face a demanding foreign and domestic agenda in a still-fragile economy. The fate of the Sejong project will be decided based on the new outline in January. The ambitious plan to redesign the country’s four major rivers will pick up speed regardless of the ongoing debate. A new labor law will be enforced. And by June, the government will face evaluation via the gubernatorial elections.

There are many mountains to climb and rivers to cross next year. Yet our politicians’ show of action and inaction is not just worrisome, it’s dreadful. President Lee remains distant from the public. The president went on TV last month, but the public was left saddled with more questions than answers. He fell short of explaining why the river project cannot just be tried on one or two rivers before proceeding with the rest and did not say whether the government has a contingency plan. He has more explaining to do. We don’t recall him seeking understanding from the opposition for backtracking on his campaign promise on Sejong.

Major issues such as a constitutional revision, the realignment of administrative districts and North Korea policy have been overshadowed by the conflicts over the Sejong and four-river projects. The upcoming political summit must focus on removing the snags and mapping out a direction for the future. To seek common ground, the opposition should open its hearts as the president tempers his pride. If the meeting ends in finger-pointing, the Korean ship is headed for a tempestuous journey in the coming year, with nervous passengers on board.
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