Possible Lee-Park meeting broached at Blue House

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Possible Lee-Park meeting broached at Blue House

President Lee Myung-bak urged the ruling Grand National Party to stop its ongoing factional feud, expressing his hope to meet with his rival Park Geun-hye to bury the hatchet.

That’s at least one version of what went on yesterday. But the muddled dispute between the two factions was later heightened after the Blue House sought to clarify the president’s remarks, which had been reported secondhand.

Lee’s original comments reportedly came after he invited newly appointed Grand National leaders to a breakfast meeting. Senior GNP and Blue House officials attended the meeting.

The meeting came in the wake of escalating tensions inside the GNP as pro-Lee and pro-Park lawmakers exchanged harsh words throughout this week. The Blue House on Thursday demanded that Park apologize for allegedly likening Lee to a burglar. Park stood her ground.

Park’s aides have said she had done nothing wrong because she was not referring to anyone specific when she used the word, and argued that the presidential office started the fight first.

The latest confrontation between the two GNP factions began after Park made clear her opposition to Lee’s plan to create a new development blueprint for Sejong City in South Chungcheong, shelving plans to relocate government offices there.

Following the meeting of Lee and GNP leadership, GNP spokesman Cho Hae-jin briefed reporters.

“After the breakfast, Lee and GNP Chairman Chung Mong-joon met alone for about 20 minutes,” Cho said. “In that separate meeting, the president expressed his intention to meet with Park.” The president said he was waiting for “an appropriate time.’”

Cho said he was told by Chung about the conversation, saying that there was no specific remark on when the Lee-Park meeting was to take place.

Asked if Chung would arrange the Lee-Park meeting, Cho said, “Until now, the Blue House has contacted Park directly, so they will probably do so again this time.”

“Rather than referring to other proposals from other people, it is my understanding that the president directly said so, Cho continued. “I don’t recall anyone speaking about it first.”

The Blue House position, however, changed quickly after media reported on Lee’s apparent wish to meet with Park. The Blue House denied that Lee had proposed the meeting, and so did Cho.

“What Lee has said is that there is no reason barring him from meeting her,” said Blue House spokesman Park Sun-kyoo. “Cho will soon have another briefing to clarify this.”

Cho soon did just that.

“Chung suggested to Lee to meet with Park, and the president reacted to the proposal by saying he can meet and talk to her when an appropriate time comes,” Cho said. “The president was speaking about a hypothetical situation.

“The president also addressed the current situation with a very simple sentence,” Cho said. “Lee said there should be no more arguments because it started from a misunderstanding.”

At the breakfast meeting, Lee also urged the Grand National Party to mend the internal rupture and cooperate with the government to approve the Sejong City revision bills.

“I wish the conclusion could be made under the party’s initiative,” Lee was quoted as saying by Cho. “The Sejong City issue can be actively discussed, but it should still remain within the boundary that we are in the same family.”

Lee also said the party’s official position on the Sejong City revision bills before the National Assembly must be decided democratically.

“Democracy is not perfect, but it is the best available system,” Cho quoted Lee as saying. “Even if your individual opinion is different from that of the party, you still need to follow it once it is adopted by the party.”

Although it was unclear if Lee was referring to Park or not, Park has said last month that she will oppose the revised plan even if the party backs it as part of its official party platform.

Pro-Park lawmakers have also refused to sit down with pro-Lee legislators to decide the GNP’s official position on the matter, arguing that they do not want to participate in a discussion where the conclusion has already been reached.


By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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