Who’s arrogant now?The main opposition Democratic Party refused to meet the president, who planned to visit the National Assembly to seek bipartisan support for the free trade agreement with the United States. The leadership of the DP also turned down a compromise by more than a half of its members, who proposed to put the deal to a vote. It’s a shame that a party with governing experience has such little respect for democratic procedures of dialogue and compromise.
The fiasco over the president’s visit exposed the two-faced nature of the DP leadership. It has long attacked President Lee Myung-bak for being arrogant and hard-nosed in his dealings with the legislature. The ruling Grand National Party also repeatedly advised the president to be more engaged with the legislative.
Lee finally came around and offered to visit the legislators. It was his first pitch to them for an individual policy or bill. But the opposition rebuffed him. The DP made an issue of the scheduling procedure. Party Chairman Sohn Hak-kyu claimed that notification of the visit without prior discussion was rude, which is a poor excuse.
The head of the main opposition should sit down with the president whenever it is necessary, as it is now. Procedures should not matter. Presidents and political leaders in advanced societies often have meetings without conditions attached.
Let’s assume Sohn is right to demand more respect for the legislature. The opposition later proposed to reschedule the meeting to Tuesday, but with a condition. The president would be flying to Hawaii to attend the annual conference of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. The main opposition party demands the president meet his U.S. counterpart, Barack Obama, on the sidelines and bargain for renegotiation of the contentious investor-state dispute settlement clause of the FTA.
Sohn had to know it was preposterous to demand the renegotiation of a deal that has been signed by both countries and already ratified in the U.S. Congress.
Sohn has a doctorate in politics and normally is reasonable. But he abandoned his sense of moderation as the opposition attempts to form a grand coalition to win the next parliamentary and presidential elections. Such personal ambitions should not get entangled with an FTA with a major country. If Sohn has any respect for parliamentary democracy, he and his party should go to the National Assembly and express their view through a vote.