First step for cooperationThe current political deadlock may finally be easing as political opponents attempt to talk through their differences rather than steamroll their way through them.
For the first time since the Lee Myung-bak administration took office, the government held a policy coordination meeting with the main opposition Democratic Party. President Lee also invited former Grand National Party leader Park Geun-hye and other members of the ruling party to the Blue House for a talk over dinner. It is refreshing to see rival factions finally choosing to talk things over, instead of bickering and pointing fingers behind each other’s back.
This first government-opposition coordination meeting proved productive. The two sides agreed to cooperate on a bipartisan level to pass a bill creating a 100 billion won ($88,383) scholarship program for underprivileged students within the year and quickly endorsed regulations on supermarket chains. Although they still had some differences on controversial issues such as the four rivers restoration project, the meeting was more successful than expected, given the parties’ past hostilities.
If the government had sought understanding and cooperation from the opposition party before pushing ahead with its policies, it would have avoided many unnecessary conflicts. The opposition party could have also gained an opportunity to have their views on government policies included, contributing to a more productive and efficient legislative process.
The opposition DP has agreed with the government to have policy-coordination meetings on urgent issues rather than holding regular meetings. But now that a channel for dialogue has been established, the two sides can at least avoid violent clashes in the National Assembly, as in the past. When these meetings are more frequent, mutual understanding will deepen and discussions will become more productive.
The continued conflict between the factions supporting President Lee and Park, his rival in the presidential race, has long disrupted overall governance of the current administration. By ignoring dialogue with its own party members, the government only exacerbated the internal divide, costing it the valuable support of the ruling party on key issues.
The tete-a-tete between Lee and Park in August and the administration’s latest meeting with GNP members contributes to creating much-needed stability and reconciliation within the ruling party. A ruling party ridden with factional disputes cannot earn the trust of the people and push forward with stable governance. Now, both parties must continue the discussion to create a cooperative and more constructive political environment.