Finding common ground

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Finding common ground

The Grand National Party embarked on a party-wide marathon debate in hopes of reaching a consensus on the Sejong City controversy ahead of a broader National Assembly vote on the new legislation about the planned city next month.

The ruling party is prepared to continue the debate for several days to hammer out differences. Dialogue and compromise form the bedrock of a democratic system. It is time the government and politicians move on to other state affairs by resolving the political gridlock over the new design of Sejong City, which has been dominating the domestic agenda for months.

But from the scenes of the first meeting, the prospects for a party consensus look dim. A rancorous emotional spat erupted from the start over a recent media comment by a senior party member. The debate underscored the deep-seated hostility between the pro-Lee Myung-bak and pro-Park Geun-hye factions.

If the debates continue in such a polarized state, they may end up widening the inner distrust. But misunderstandings can best be clarified when publicly discussed. The ruling party must display maturity and a capacity to iron out differences through the democratic process.

All sides must exercise a great deal of patience and efforts to produce an agreement via debates. They must come to the talks with open minds, leaving aside cynicism and mistrust. Both sides already are well aware of their differing positions. There is no need to repeat their arguments.

Instead of going around in circles over obvious differences, the two sides should push the debate to a new level by scrutinizing the merits and disadvantages of the original and new outlines on the city. They can discuss a new set of ideas if they are not happy with the existing proposals.

Most of all, the heads of the rivaling factions - President Lee Myung-bak and former party leader Park Geun-hye - must allow their supporting members freedom to express their views in the debates. They cannot commit themselves to serious discussions while fettered to the principles and thoughts of their leaders. The debates will end in vain if they are employed to merely reiterate and replay the platforms of each faction.

President Lee and Park will inevitably have to meet. No members can be completely freed from allegiance to their faction. Only the two leaders can break the ice. Past history warns that a conflict between an incumbent power and potential future power can be fatal to both sides. The two leaders have been in politics for long enough to be able to bury the hatchet and find common ground for mutual benefit.
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