Park asks Lee to help her welfare campaign pledges

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Park asks Lee to help her welfare campaign pledges

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Park Geun-hye, left, the presidential candidate of the ruling Saenuri Party, has one-on-one meeting with President Lee Myung-bak yesterday in the Blue House. [YONHAP]


The ruling party presidential candidate Park Geun-hye had a closed-door, one-on-one meeting with President Lee Myung-bak yesterday in a bid to seek government support for her campaign pledges to expand welfare in return for supporting the lame-duck president until the end of his term.

During a four-minute greeting session open to reporters, the two discussed the recent storms and the president’s upcoming visit to Greenland. It was their first face-to-face meeting in eight months.

When Park, wearing a long white tailored blouse, appeared at the Blue House, Lee, who had been awaiting her, said, “There you are. How have you been lately with such a tight schedule?”

Park said she had visited some areas destroyed by heavy rains and wind, saying farmers were “devastated” by the storms. Lee promised recovery work. Park also showed interest in Lee’s unprecedented visit to Greenland, the first for a Korean president.

“The land, which is about 17 times that of the Korean Peninsula, is experiencing climate changes with melting glaciers,” Lee explained. “It is full of natural resources, and I will sign a contract to develop those resources and harbors leading to the Arctic.

“Then the next administration will be able to develop it,” Lee added.

The luncheon started at noon and lasted 100 minutes, Lee Sang-il, Park’s spokesman, told reporters at a briefing. “Park had her first meeting with the president since she was elected the presidential candidate,” Lee said. “They mainly talked about three things: Improving people’s livelihoods, recovering from the damages made by recent storms, and increasing public safety from sex crimes.”

Park encouraged the president to take “special measures,” including reducing university tuitions, which are part of her pledges to increase “economic democracy.”

An aide to Park told the JoongAng Ilbo that it was Park who proposed the meeting, and the ruling Saenuri Party expects more government support for her welfare pledges. Lee hopes to be freed from pressure to leave the party, unlike his predecessors, sources at the Blue House told the daily newspaper.

Since Korea restored democracy in 1987, all four former presidents were forced to leave the ruling party in order to help the ruling party’s presidential candidates in elections because their parties wanted to keep a distance from their scandal-ridden administrations. Though the former presidents wanted to stay in their respective parties, they all left.

By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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