Lee-Park meeting ‘crucial’ to GNP

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Lee-Park meeting ‘crucial’ to GNP

In advance of a planned meeting between President Lee Myung-bak and his in-house rival Park Geun-hye, ruling party figures hoped yesterday that the two heavyweights could bring unity, and not further division.

“The meeting of Lee and Park is truly desirable,” Grand National Party floor leader Kim Moo-sung said yesterday. “It is crucial to have coordination and preparation in advance for the meeting. Instead of talking about the past, they should put the harmony and unity of the party as their top priorities to win the next presidential election.”

The relationship between Lee and Park has been sour ever since her defeat in the 2007 presidential primary and the subsequent power struggle between pro-Lee and pro-Park factions. Park, a former GNP chairwoman who is considered one of the strongest presidential contenders for the 2012 election, has opposed major projects of the Lee administration.

Lee and Park have formally met on five occasions since late 2007, but none of the meetings resolved the strife. Their relationship, in fact, worsened after the meetings.

The latest GNP defeat in local elections last month, however, rang alarm bells within the conservative party, and Lee and Park agreed in the last few days to meet soon.

“The upcoming meeting must be more than a photo op,” said Representative Na Kyung-won, a newly elected member of the GNP’s Supreme Council. “They must coordinate their agendas in advance to have a substantial discussion. We expect to see tangible results.”

Representative Suh Byung-soo, a Park loyalist and also a Supreme Council member, said the meeting must not be a mere show. “They must not give the impression to people that they are in disagreement,” Suh said. “The Blue House must prepare this meeting meticulously so that we can see a substantial outcome.”

The Blue House also said yesterday that preparations are underway to make the best of the parley. “Instead of focusing on when, we are focusing on making a successful meeting by restoring their trust,” said Kim Hee-jung, the new presidential spokeswoman. “The past meetings didn’t have the effect that we anticipated, so we are trying to make the upcoming one truly meaningful.”

She said rushing the meeting date to before the July 28 by-elections is inappropriate because it would hamper efforts to reconcile the two faction leaders. Lee and Park sat down for their first bilateral talks on Dec. 29, 2007, to discuss the nominations for the 2008 legislative elections. After the meeting, Lee aides said Park had turned down the prime minister post, while Park confidants furiously refuted that such a proposal was made.

The two met again about a month later, agreeing to a fair nomination process. And yet, pro-Park politicians failed to receive many nominations, and Park openly said, “I was deceived as well as the people.”

In May 2008, Lee and Park met for the third time, and Park appealed for the return of the pro-Park lawmakers who left the GNP in the aftermath of the nominations debacle. Lee, however, said the matter was to be decided by the party, worsening the rift.

Another meeting took place in January last year, but ended with no sign of reconciliation. They met for the fifth time on Sept. 16, 2009, but their schism deepened when Park openly protested Lee’s plan to revise the Sejong City blueprint.

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