Park floats idea of mini-summit

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Park floats idea of mini-summit

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Kweon Seong-dong, right, lawmaker of the ruling Saenuri Party, and Jung Chung-rae, left, lawmaker of the opposition Democratic Party, jointly announce yesterday a weeklong extension of the legislative probe into whether the National Intelligence Service interfered in last year’s presidential election. By Kim Hyung-soo

President Park Geun-hye yesterday proposed a political summit with the chairmen and floor leaders of the ruling and opposition parties to discuss the wide range of issues dividing them.

Kim Ki-choon, Park’s new chief of staff, gave a short press conference yesterday afternoon to announce Park’s offer.

“The chairmen of the ruling and opposition parties made requests to meet with the president,” said Kim. “The president made several proposals to meet with them, but was only able to talk with the ruling party chairman after the opposition turned her offer down. The ruling and opposition parties proposed a meeting recently to discuss state affairs and we received it positively.”

Kim said the meeting should include floor leaders since many issues involve the legislature.

“We would like to propose a five-way talk,” Kim said.

Representative Choi Kyung-hwan, one of Park’s closest associates, is the floor leader of the Saenuri Party. The DP floor leader is Representative Jun Byung-hun. Before making the offer, Kim made clear that the proposal was coming from Park.

But the Democratic Party yesterday rejected the five-way meeting offer, saying it wants to have a one-on-one meeting between Park and its Chairman Kim Han-gill. The Saenuri Party welcomed the proposal.

Park’s offer was in response to the recent requests made by the chairmen of the Saenuri and Democratic parties. DP Chairman Kim acted first on Saturday, asking Park for a one-on-one meeting to end months of political deadlock over the impasse involving the nation’s main spy agency.

The National Assembly is conducting an investigation into whether the National Intelligence Service ran an online smear campaign against the opposition candidate in last year’s presidential election, but the Democrats say the Saenuri Party is not cooperating fully in the probe.

Since last week, the Democrats have staged outdoor protests at Seoul Plaza to condemn both the Park administration and the ruling party for a lack of cooperation.

After the DP chairman proposed a meeting with Park to discuss that issue, Saenuri Party Chairman Hwang Woo-yea proposed a compromise Monday, asking Park and Kim to sit down together in a three-way meeting with him. He said a three-way meeting would resolve the deadlock faster.

While the Democrats welcomed Hwang’s plan, the Blue House did not respond right away. After replacing her chief of staff Monday, Park made a counterproposal to have a five-way meeting.

The assembly’s probe into the NIS is scheduled to end on Aug. 15 and negotiators from the Saenuri and Democratic parties held talks about extending it to allow more witnesses to testify before lawmakers.

The two sides agreed yesterday to extend the probe by a week with a schedule to adopt the investigation outcome report on Aug. 23. They also agreed to hold hearings on Aug. 14, 19 and 21 to hear from witnesses.

They, however, failed to agree on who will testify.

The Democrats want former NIS director Won Sei-hoon, former Seoul police chief Kim Yong-pan, Saenuri Representative Kim Moo-sung and Korea’s ambassador to China Kwon Young-se to be witnesses.

The Saenuri Party is adamant about leaving Kim Moo-sung and Kwon out. Kim and Kwon worked as senior campaign managers for Park.


BY SER MYO-JA [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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