Ruling party leader plans to visit grave of late RohSaenuri Chairman Kim Moo-sung will pay his respects to late President Roh Moo-hyun on Saturday in Gimhae, South Gyeongsang, where the late statesman was laid to rest.
The trip was intended to express his desire to bridge the political and ideological divide. Kim’s scheduled visit bears significance given his history with the former president, whom he severely criticized during Roh’s five-year term, which ended in 2008.
“I thought I should commit myself to taking a step toward national unity [with this visit],” the ruling party’s chief lawmaker said in a telephone interview with the JoongAng Ilbo, adding that the ruling and opposition parties should work to overcome hurdles separating them.
Kim’s visit to the far southeastern city of Gimhae came after years of harshly criticizing the late president, an attitude that once put him at the center of controversy.
During the 2012 presidential race, Kim made claims that Roh had yielded South Korea’s western maritime territory to North Korea during a summit in 2007 with Kim Jong-il, the leader of North Korea at that time.
His remark drew strong protests from the opposition and those who served under the Roh government.
Kim was also a vocal critic of the Roh government’s plan to relocate the administrative offices to Sejong City.
He will be accompanied by senior Saenuri leaders, including Rep. Kim Tae-ho, the former South Gyeongsang governor, and party spokesman Park Dae-chul.
The trip is Kim’s first to the late president’s gravesite. He will not, however, be meeting with former first lady Kwon Yang-sook due to scheduling conflicts.
His visit has been seen by some observers as a strategic last-ditch effort to turn around negative public sentiment toward embattled prime minister nominee Lee Wan-koo before the National Assembly’s Monday plenary session.
BY KANG JIN-KYU [email@example.com]