DP’s Sohn calls for summit with MB

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DP’s Sohn calls for summit with MB

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At the Strategy and Finance Committee of the National Assembly yesterday, Sohn Hak-kyu, left, chairman of the Democratic Party, meets with Park Geun-hye, right, former chairwoman of the ruling Grand National Party. Both are considered potential presidential candidates in next year’s election. By Kim Hyung-soo


The leader of the largest opposition party - and a probable presidential candidate - yesterday proposed a rare meeting with President Lee Myung-bak, saying he wanted to have a candid discussion on the country’s bread-and-butter economic issues.

In response, the Blue House yesterday said that its door was always open to lawmakers and that it will contact the Democratic Party to confirm Chairman Sohn Hak-kyu’s proposal.

At a meeting of the DP’s Supreme Council, Sohn made public his offer to meet with Lee.

“I want to sit down with the president and have a candid talk about the crisis that the Korean society and the people are facing,” he said.

“The people want to see the president and the opposition party leader have a frank dialogue about hardships in the country,” Sohn said. “I want this meeting to become an event with substance by reaching an agreement for the people, rather than just a photo opportunity to show the people that we had a meeting.”

Sohn is a potential Democratic presidential candidate in next year’s election. He defected from the ruling Grand National Party in March 2007.

If the meeting takes between Sohn and Lee, it would be the first time in three years the president has met with the main opposition leader. The last such meeting was in September 2008 when Lee met with then-Democratic Party Chairman Chung Sye-kyun.

Sohn listed a range of topics that he wanted to discuss with Lee. “Not only tuitions, but also inflation, jobs, jeonse [rental deposits] and wolse [monthly rent], the savings bank crisis and snowballing debts are serious problems,” he said. He said the renegotiated Korea-U.S. free trade agreement and subsequent job losses in Korea should be addressed, as well as worsening labor-management relations.

Sohn also said he wanted to discuss inter-Korean relations and judicial reform with President Lee.

The Blue House yesterday reacted with caution. “The Blue House is always opened to politicians,” said Kim Du-woo, senior secretary to the president for public affairs. “We hope the Democratic Party will make a genuine approach to discuss economic issues.”

Kim said it will take some time for the Blue House to arrange a meeting with the Democrat.

He said the two sides will be able to discern how genuine Sohn’s offer is once negotiations begin.

“The door is always open to discuss livelihood issues,” Kim said. “We had made an offer to have the talks with Sohn in February, but our offer was never realized, unfortunately.”

President Lee offered to talk with Sohn on live television last February. He repeated the proposal to Sohn when they encountered each other briefly at the March 1st Independence Movement ceremony.

The meeting, however, did not materialize as the two sides failed to agree on conditions for the talks.

At the time, Sohn demanded that Lee apologize for the ruling Grand National Party’s use of its majority in the National Assembly to railroad through the budget bill at the end of last year.

Sohn gave no prior warning to the Blue House about yesterday’s proposal, a Blue House source said. Other sources said the Blue House was informed of Sohn’s proposal 30 minutes before he made it public.

“It is natural for a politician to make a proposal with political motives,” a senior Blue House source said. “As long as the meeting is not politicized too much, we are open to it. If we can come to some agreements, it will be meaningful. The president has some issues he would like to explain to the opposition leader, so we are positive about having this meeting.”

If the meeting comes through, it would be the second for Sohn as opposition leader. Sohn accepted Lee’s offer of a meeting in May 2008.

Sohn led the DP from January to July 2008 and was re-elected to the chairmanship in October 2010.


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


한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]

손학규 “무릎 맞대자” MB “토 달 이유 없다”

이르면 이달 중 영수회담

민주당 손학규 대표가 13일 이명박 대통령에게 회담을 제의하고, 이 대통령도 “이른 시일 내 만났으면 좋겠다”고 화답했다. 이에 따라 이르면 이달 중 이 대통령과 손 대표의 회담이 이뤄질 가능성이 거론되고 있다. 이 대통령이 제1야당 대표와 단독으로 만난 건 2008년 9월 정세균 당시 민주당 대표와의 회담이 마지막이다.

손 대표는 이날 오전 9시쯤 당 최고위원회의에서 “이명박 대통령과 무릎을 맞대고 앉아 우리 사회·국민에게 닥친 삶의 위기에 대해 진실한 대화를 나누고 싶다. 국민은 대통령과 야당 대표가 흉금 없이 소통하는 모습을 보기 원한다”며 회담을 전격 제안했다.

그러면서 “반값 등록금만이 문제가 아니고 물가, 일자리, 전·월세, 저축은행 부실, 한없이 늘어가는 가계부채도 큰일이다. 한·미 자유무역협정(FTA) 재협상으로 인한 이익균형이 깨진 문제도 논의해야 하고 갈수록 악화되는 노사분규도 이렇게 둬선 안 된다”고 했다.

손 대표의 이 같은 제안은 즉각 이명박 대통령이 주재하고 있던 청와대 수석비서관회의로 전해졌다. 김효재 신임 정무수석에게 ‘손 대표, 회담 제안’이라고 간단히 적힌 쪽지가 전달된 것이다. 김 수석은 이 대통령에게 간단히 손 대표의 제안을 보고한 뒤 회의 후 다시 손 대표의 발언 전문을 보고했다. 이때 이명박 대통령의 반응은 “상당히 긍정적으로 (회담을) 할 용의가 있다”는 것이었다고 청와대 핵심 관계자가 전했다.

이후 김두우 홍보수석은 오전 10시50분쯤 기자들에게 “청와대는 늘 정치권에 대해 열려 있다. 민생 문제에 대해 민주당이 진정성 있는 접근을 해주길 기대하고 있다”는 입장을 발표했다. 손 대표와의 단독 회동 형식에 대해서도 “수용하지 않을 이유가 없다”고 했다.

김효재 수석은 오후에 국회로 손 대표를 예방, ‘진정성 있는 대화라면 환영한다. 민생을 걱정하는 건데 이러고 저러고 토를 달 이유가 없다’는 이 대통령의 입장을 전달했다. 민주당은 “김 수석이 ‘민생이라면 나도 손 대표에게 드릴 말씀이 있다. 의제·시간을 조율해 이른 시일 내에 만났으면 좋겠다’는 이 대통령의 뜻도 전달했다”고 밝혔다. 이 대통령은 김 수석을 통해 ‘7월 초 해외순방 이전’이란 일정도 구체적으로 제시했다고 민주당은 덧붙였다.

회담 의제와 관련, 민주당 측도 “민생을 주제로 하자는 것엔 다른 정치 현안은 논외로 하자는 것”이라고 밝혀 청와대의 부담을 덜어준 상태다. 12일 손 대표를 만나 이 문제를 논의한 박선숙 전략홍보본부장은 “손 대표가 10일 ‘이 대통령이 나서지 않으면 (반값 등록금) 문제가 해결되지 않는다’고 밝혔던 것도 회담 제안을 앞둔 복선이었다”고 밝혔다.

하지만 회담이 실제로 열려도 성과를 낼 수 있을지 여부는 미지수다. 민주당은 회담의 주요 의제로 예상되는 한·미 FTA와 관련해 ‘재재협상’을 요구하고 있고, ‘반값 등록금’도 이 대통령과는 인식에 현격한 차이가 있다.

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