President to hold talks with parties’ leadership

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President to hold talks with parties’ leadership

President Park Geun-hye is scheduled to hold her first summit today with floor leaders of the ruling and opposition parties to discuss a number of overarching issues, including remodeling the country and stimulating the economy.

The president will speak with Lee Wan-koo, the floor leader of the ruling Saenuri Party, and his main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) counterpart Park Young-sun, among other chief policymakers from both sides at the Blue House.

Park met the two floor leaders on July 3 at the state banquet for Chinese President Xi Jinping, where they agreed to meet. The talks with bipartisan floor leaders, the first since Park took office in February 2013, comes as she finalizes the reshuffling of her second cabinet.

Park’s approval ratings dropped significantly following the April 16 Sewol ferry disaster, which left the government struggling to weed out corruption in bureaucracy, bolster safety regulations and regain public trust.

The talks may provide an opportunity to build trust and cooperation between the rival parties, and President Park is expected to focus on strengthening bipartisan dialogue. The large-scale government remodeling, anti-corruption legislation, measures to follow up on the Sewol ferry sinking, as well as an agenda for economic stimulation are some areas expected to be discussed, among others.

President Park is especially pushing for lawmakers to pass the so-called Kim Young-ran bill, an anti-corruption law that would enable authorities to punish government officials for taking bribes of 1 million won ($988) or more regardless of whether they did political favors in return. She considers the bill as a litmus test of whether the country’s politicians are sincere about combatting corruption.

The NPAD is also expected to raise issues on the qualifications of some of Park’s cabinet nominees. Controversy has surrounded the confirmation hearing process since two of Park’s prime ministerial candidates withdrew within two months after Prime Minister Chung Hong-won tendered his resignation to take responsibility for the ferry disaster.

Eight cabinet nominees underwent confirmation hearings this week in the National Assembly. Those hearings conclude today.

“We have many bills that we would like to see made into legislation, so there will definitely be a request for cooperation in the legislation process,” presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook said yesterday. “This may be an opportunity to increase dialogue.”

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]




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