A poor ideaAfter National Assembly Speaker Chung Ui-hwa said he will propose an inter-Korean parliamentary meeting next month, Saenuri Party floor leader Lee Wan-koo denounced the idea yesterday. “That requires close consultations with leaders of our political parties, not to mention sufficient exchanges of ideas with the administration,” he said. “It is not an issue the speaker can decide alone.” The schism between the two political bigwigs is living proof of a dichotomy existing in the ruling party camp.
Even if a parliament-level meeting is held between the two legislatures of South and North Korea, it can hardly deviate from the larger framework of meetings between representatives of the two governments. The South’s National Assembly is controlled by the ruling Saenuri Party, a majority group in the legislative branch, while its counterpart, the Supreme People’s Assembly, is nothing more than a part of the North’s ruling apparatus despite the democratic-sounding name. Given the complete disparity between the two countries’ systems, a parliamentary meeting should obviously keep pace with overall government-level preparations, including a selection of agenda items, for inter-Korean contacts.
Speaker Chung’s proposal is nonsensical. Even after the surprise visit to the closing ceremony of the Incheon Asian Games by three top officials from the North, Pyongyang continued its military provocations, as seen in its recent firings at balloons carrying leaflets dispatched by North Korean defectors. (The bullets landed in an inhabited village in the South.) In such an inflammable situation, both sides are struggling to hold high-level talks. Chung should have taken such a complicated development into account before offering a parliamentary meeting. He said he will deliver his plan to President Park Geun-hye, but that’s not enough. As parliamentary contact involves our legislative body, it needs close consultations with all our political leaders.
The speaker needs to carefully weigh the efficacy of such a parliament-level meeting. Despite past preliminary contacts since the head of the North’s Supreme People’s Assembly proposed such a meeting in 1985, one never actually happened.
Even if such a parliamentary meeting is held, it will get nowhere if the North seeks to take the opportunity to wage propaganda warfare as in the past. It would be much better for South Korea to focus on the government-level dialogue for the time being.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 15, Page 34