Old-timers try to end partisan fight

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Old-timers try to end partisan fight


Senior members of the ruling Saenuri and opposition Democratic parties pose for a photo yesterday at a Chinese restaurant in Yeouido, western Seoul, before a closed-door discussion over lunch. From left: Chung Mong-joon, Nam Kyung-pil, Chung Ui-hwa, Park Byeong-seug, Suh Chung-won, Moon Hee-sang, Rhee In-je, Lee Seok-hyun and Kim Moo-sung. By Kim Hyung-soo

Senior members of the ruling and opposition parties met for a talk over lunch yesterday to try to end the standoff between the ruling Saenuri and the opposition Democratic parties.

Lawmakers with at least three completed terms in the National Assembly under their belts attended the gathering yesterday at a Chinese restaurant in Yeouido, western Seoul.

The idea of forming a so-called ruling and opposition senior consultative group to bridge the political chasm between the parties was first proposed by Suh Chung-won and Chung Moon-joon during a dinner on Dec.9, according to sources.

There were seven Saenuri lawmakers in the meeting yesterday: Chairman Hwang Woo-yea (who is in his fifth term), Suh Chung-won, Chung Mong-joon (seventh terms), Rhee In-je (sixth term), Kim Moo-sung, Chung Ui-hwa and Nam Kyung-pil (fifth terms). There were also five DP lawmakers: Moon Hee-sang, Chung Sye-kyun, Lee Seok-hyun, Lee Mi-kyung (fifth terms) and Park Byeong-seug (fourth term). A lack of alternate communication channels between the two parties prompted the creation of the gathering.

“There is a saying that a 10-year period of time changes the landscape of rivers and mountains,” said Suh, 70, a long-time aide of President Park Geun-hye who returned to the Assembly after a by-election victory in October, before the closed-door luncheon. “And we are here with people who have worked more than 20 years in the Assembly.”

During the lunch, which lasted about an hour, the legislators reportedly exchanged thoughts on a range of issues, including the Assembly’s reform committee for the National Intelligence Service, which has been under fire from the opposition for its alleged dirty tricks during last year’s presidential campaign.

Chung Sye-kyun reportedly remarked on a stalemate in the special reform committee for the spy agency, saying the two parties are having a hard time finding common ground.

After the lunch, Representative Nam told reporters, “As we are senior members of the Assembly with long years of experience in politics, and have been in both the position of ruling party and opposition over the years, we agreed on many issues in the discussion.”

“We mostly talked about our thoughts on the ongoing gridlock at the Assembly, with a spirit of bipartisanship missing for so long,” said Moon of the DP. “We agreed that we must achieve our task to put the Assembly back to work.” The veteran opposition lawmaker said the members agreed to have another meeting next month.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]
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