New start for two old rivals

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New start for two old rivals

A meeting between President Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye, former chairwoman of the Grand National Party and a likely candidate in the next presidential race, has attracted great interest at a time when their alliance could set the ruling party in the right direction.

The two may have had a productive 60-minute tete-a-tete, but both sides declined to comment on the details. Based on Park’s demeanor and comments, however, it appears that the two have connected more closely than before.

Park explained that she had requested a sit-down meeting with the president, which he accepted. At the meeting, she shared her opinions on broad issues related to governance, particularly on those that affect the public. The president agreed with her opinions and said he would reflect them in his administration.

The two also had no disagreements on issues related to the GNP. Park emphasized the need for “unity” instead of conflict and pledged to do her part. The president responded with appreciation and asked her for support.

It was the first time that the mood between the two former presidential campaign rivals had been so amicable, even though they had met on seven different occasions in the past. On the surface, it seems as though the two have broken the ice.

But the challenge is that they must follow up with real actions. They have had talks before, but the strife between the pro-president and pro-Park forces within the party continues because the two leaders have failed to show respect for one another.

Park kept mum on controversial government policies, expressing her displeasure with the government with her silence. In past election campaigns as well, she politely declined to rally support for certain policies. Her distance and indifference stoked conflict within the party as well as within the government.

There is only one way forward. As agreed in the meeting, the two should stand side by side to promote future policies if they sincerely have the public interest at heart. Joint leadership would be risky and challenging.

The ruling party is already grousing about a revision of party convention regulations. The internal conflict will only worsen when election season nears. But there are few signs that policy makers can tame inflation and the unemployment rate. The two leaders must meet more frequently and combine their wisdom. We sincerely hope this latest meeting is a starting point for a new constructive leadership.

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