Sit-down a worthwhile stepEven after the April 16 Sewol disaster, our politicians have been fighting over the Blue House’s botched appointments for high government offices. We welcome President Park Geun-hye’s meeting yesterday with leading politicians from the ruling Saenuri Party and opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, as it helps to raise hopes for politics based on dialogue and coexistence. The floor leader of the NPAD, Park Young-sun, effectively delivered the opposition’s growing demands and the president gladly listened.
When asked to reconsider the appointments of Kim Myung-soo as education minister and Joung Sung-keun as culture minister, the president said, “I understand well what you said and will take it into consideration.” When the floor leader criticized the president’s decision to let Prime Minister Chung Hong-won remain in office, the president explained in detail why she did so - despite her earlier call for his resignation for the government’s lethargic response to the Sewol calamity - and sought her guest’s understanding.
The image of President Park offering a sincere explanation to the floor leader of the main opposition looked good, but personnel affairs are under the jurisdiction of the president. We hope she responds to the floor leader’s demands with action.
Park had called for the National Assembly’s help to enact several laws aimed at cutting shady connections between government officials and the industries they monitor; banning the private sector from engaging in illegal lobbying; and punishing those who profit directly or indirectly from illegal activity. The floor leader said the legislature would pass the bills in August after establishing a forum for public discussion. The promise should help the president to achieve her goal of a national revamp in a more transparent manner. Under National Assembly law, no political party can unilaterally pass laws without support from another. But since the political paradigm has shifted, opposition parties must change as well if they want to be responsible partners in national governance.
In yesterday’s sit-down, such issues as inter-Korean ties, a legislative probe into the controversial four-river restoration projects, a tax cut for the rich and economic democratization also were discussed. Even though the sides don’t agree, it is important to know what the other side thinks. President Park proposed that the meeting with opposition leaders be held on a regular basis. We welcome it. The offer will be a small step toward consensus-based politics. It would be better if the ruling and opposition parties first agree on the date of the meeting, before the president announces it.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 11, Page 30