Talks break down over gov’t revamp

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Talks break down over gov’t revamp

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Lee Hahn-koo, left, floor leader of the Saenuri Party, and Park Ki-choon, right, floor leader of the main opposition Democratic United Party, move to another room for a closed-door negotiation over the government restructuring plan yesterday at the National Assembly in Yeouido, western Seoul, after a brief open meeting before reporters. [NEWSIS]

The Blue House and the main opposition party engaged yesterday in a fiery blame game over the legislative deadlock over President Park Geun-hye’s government restructuring plan.

After the opposition Democratic United Party turned down Park’s invitation for talks at the Blue House yesterday with the ruling Saenuri Party leaders to discuss the delayed passage of government restructuring bills, the presidential office said Park will issue a statement to the nation today to personally address the situation.

Lee Nam-ki, presidential senior secretary for public relations, said yesterday that Park will give the speech at 10 a.m. today.

“The president proposed the meeting, but the opposition party rejected it,” Lee said. “The responsibility of lawmakers is to speak on behalf of the people. They must participate in state affairs through dialogue and compromise.”

Lee said Park will apologize to the people about the disturbed operation of the government and make public her governance platform during the address. Park took the oath of office on Feb. 25, but her ministries remain without leaders as the National Assembly is deadlocked over the government restructuring plan.

Floor leaders of the ruling and opposition parties held yet another round of negotiations yesterday morning, but the talks broke down after 80 minutes as the Saenuri Party rejected the DUP’s offer to approve most of the bills, except for the parts concerning the Ministry of Future Planning and Science.

After her presidential victory, Park announced a series of changes to reorganize the government and recruited Kim Jeong-hun, the famous telecom entrepreneur from the United States, to head her ambitious new ministry on future planning and science.

While the ruling party gave its support, the DUP opposed the idea of giving the broadcasting policy oversight to the new ministry.

A meeting scheduled to take place at the Blue House at 2 p.m. among leaders of the ruling and opposition parties and President Park was also subsequently canceled.

On Saturday, the Blue House held a press conference and announced that Park invited the leaders of the ruling and opposition parties to discuss the issue.

Lee, the senior secretary for public relations, said yesterday that it was regretful for the DUP to turn down the offer, although the legislature and the president exist to serve the people. He also said the situation is grave because the National Assembly’s extraordinary session will end tomorrow.

According to Lee, Moon Hee-sang, interim head of the DUP, formally informed Park’s chief of staff, Huh Tae-yeol, of the rejection around noon yesterday. Lee also said there is no plan for Park to accept the DUP’s proposal to approve the rest of the restructuring bills but leave behind the future planning and science ministry.

The DUP made clear yesterday that it was extremely displeased at the Blue House’s handling of the situation.

Kim Haing, presidential spokeswoman, and Yoon Chang-joong, presidential spokesman, took turns since Friday holding a series of press conferences to urge the DUP to approve the bills before tomorrow, and the main opposition party reacted sensitively for blaming it over the deadlock.

The DUP also condemned President Park’s high-handedness.

“The Blue House informed the opposition party after making the offer public,” Representative Yun Kwan-seok, DUP spokesman, said Saturday after the presidential office’s press conference to announce the proposed talks.

“Furthermore, the Blue House announced the deadline for passing the bills, as if it were giving a military order. It has an attitude of treating the National Assembly as a rubber-stamp legislature.”

After turning down Park’s invitation yesterday, the DUP continued to criticize the Blue House’s attitude.

Yun added the Blue House went ahead with the announcement without consulting with the DUP first.

“This is unprecedented, and we don’t want this situation to recur ever again,” he said. “The Assembly and the opposition party are not a secretariat or a political back-up troop which the Blue House can order around high-handedly.”

The DUP spokesman also complained about presidential spokeswoman Kim’s “urgent press conference” at 9 a.m. yesterday to appeal for the passage again, just an hour before the floor leaders began talks.

“Although the Blue House called it an appeal, it was a political move to pressure the legislature,” Kim Hyun, spokeswoman of the DUP, said. “We have asked the president to give the ruling party the power to negotiate independently, but the urgent press conference was an ultimatum that she has no intention to do so.”

While the DUP gnashed its teeth toward Park, it made clear that it will continue to talk with the ruling party.

“The negotiation is still ongoing,” Yun said.

The ruling party said yesterday that it will do its best to pass the government restructuring bills before the legislative session ends tomorrow.



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

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