Park invites political foe, lawmakers to luncheon

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Park invites political foe, lawmakers to luncheon

President Park Geun-hye will invite all lawmakers of the ruling Saenuri Party, including her high-profile political enemy, Rep. Yoo Seong-min, for a luncheon at the Blue House on Friday.

The meeting between the Saenuri lawmakers and the president is the first since the ruling party suffered a humiliating defeat in the April 13 general election.

“This will be an opportunity to ensure that the 20th National Assembly will be productive,” Rep. Chung Jin-suk, floor leader of the Saenuri Party, said Tuesday about the invitation, “and also an opportunity for the president and lawmakers to unite their resolves to recover the economy and improve the people’s livelihoods.”

Of the 129 Saenuri lawmakers invited, 122 won the seats with the Saenuri tickets in the April general election. The rest were politicians who left the party on the eve of the election after their nominations were denied, ran independently, won and then returned. One of those seven is Rep. Yoo, who resigned from the floor leader post last year after a public feud with Park.

Once an ally of Park, the two parted bitterly last year after she publicly condemned Yoo for “politics of betrayal” over a deal he brokered with the opposition. Yoo was forced to resign from the floor leader post and became an icon of resistance to the president.

After Yoo asked to run in Daegu’s Dong B District for a fourth term, Park loyalists denied him a Saenuri nomination, claiming Yoo has a different ideology from the ruling party. Yoo subsequently left the Saenuri Party on the eve of the general election, ran independently and won.

After winning his fourth-term as an independent, his return to the Saenuri Party was not easy. Although the party’s interim leadership decided to bring back all seven defectors on June 16, Park loyalists fiercely protested the move.

The party’s secretary general and deputy secretary general both resigned from their posts in the aftermath of the latest factional conflict over the homecoming of former party members, particularly Yoo.

Yoo reportedly said he will attend the presidential luncheon. He resigned from the floor leadership on July 8, 2015, and the luncheon will take place exactly one year later.

During the 19th National Assembly, Park invited all Saenuri lawmakers and heads of local party chapters to the Blue House for a dinner in January 2014.

She also hosted a luncheon for Saenuri lawmakers in August last year. Yoo, forced out from the floor leadership the previous month, attended the meeting but did not have a separate encounter with Park.

The high-level consultation meeting of the Blue House administration and Saenuri Party will also resume on Thursday. The meeting will be the fifth of its kind and will be hosted by Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-an.

The routine meeting was abruptly canceled on June 17, after Acting Chairman Kim Hee-ok of the ruling party refused to attend the session to show his disapproval of the decision by other leadership members to bring back the independent lawmakers.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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