A storm that won’t break

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A storm that won’t break

Despite a glimmer of hope from a near-agreement on a meeting between the leadership of the ruling and opposition parties, an extreme deadlock has settled over Korean politics.

President Park Geun-hye yesterday expressed an intention to meet with the chairmen and floor leaders of the ruling Saenuri Party and opposition Democratic Party through Kim Ki-choon, her new chief of staff. Kim said that he welcomed the president’s proposal for talks to share her views on overarching aspects of national governance with other political leaders. On behalf of the president, Kim proposed a five-way meeting to discuss a number of thorny issues facing the country.

As the standoff over the National Intelligence Service’s alleged meddling in last December’s presidential election continues to drag on for more than two months, both camps have sought some kind of exit from the feud, such as a meeting with their counterparts and with the president. Last month, Saenuri Party Chairman Hwang Woo-yea proposed a meeting with his DP counterpart Kim Han-gill but to no avail. After Kim Han-gill called for a two-way meeting with President Park last weekend, Hwang counter-proposed a three-way meeting, with himself included. Then the Blue House came up with the idea of the five-way meeting, breaking its silence. Unfortunately, the DP said no.

In fact, both parties have waged a delicate war of nerves over the meetings. Opposition parties preferred a two-way meeting between their leaders and the president to show off their power to stare down a head of state. But the president decided to meet both parties’ leaders at once because of a need to distance herself from muddy political fights as commander in chief.

Both camps are resorting to a similar tug of war, as seen by the opposition’s position change from, “We don’t care about the formalities of the meeting” to “Give us more time to think about it.” But they must keep one thing in mind: The nation has entered an emergency. Since the DP launched outdoor rallies to protest the top spy agency’s chief’s declassifying of a transcript of the conversation between President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il at a 2007 summit, tens of thousands of citizens are protesting the government in public.

Both sides are responsible for the ominous development unfolding in Seoul Plaza. The opposition must not miss a precious opportunity to meet the president face-to-face. The Blue House and ruling party also should present detailed solutions to calm the political storm, including ideas on how to reform the spy agency.
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