Bipartisan group heads to China to discuss country’s vision

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Bipartisan group heads to China to discuss country’s vision

A bipartisan group of Korean political heavyweights has headed to Guangdong Province in southeastern China to meet with a next-generation Chinese leader as part of their ongoing efforts to reach out to politicians of key strategic countries.

The group was comprised of Gyeonggi Governor Nam Kyung-pil; Saenuri Party Rep. Na Kyung-won, a four-term lawmaker and former chairman of the National Assembly Foreign Affairs Committee; Kim Boo-kyum, a four-term lawmaker of the main opposition Minjoo Party; and Lee Kwang-jae, a liberal former Gangwon governor. On Wednesday, they met with Hu Chunhua, a member of the Communist Party’s Politburo and a party secretary of Guangdong.

Hu has been referred to as a possible future president of China.

Likewise, Governor Nam and Rep. Na have both been mentioned as possible Saenuri presidential candidates for next year’s election.

Another thing this group of politicians have in common is that they are all in their 50s. Rep. Kim is 58, Secretary Hu and Rep. Na are both 53, while Governor Nam and Lee are 51.

South Chungcheong Governor Ahn Hee-jung, who is likewise expected to make a presidential bid for the Minjoo Party, was also set to visit China but cancelled at the last minute because of the ongoing controversial decision by Korea to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad), a move that has been met with domestic protests as well as opposition by Beijing.

Lee, a former lawmaker who in 2002 served as a planning team director for late President Roh Moo-hyun’s presidential campaign, said in a phone interview with the JoongAng Ilbo on Wednesday, “Two months ago, Saenuri Rep. Kim Se-yeon, Rep. Na, Rep. Kim and I went to Japan and met with influential lawmakers there.”

It is nearly unheard of for ruling and opposition party Korean politicians to get together and travel to strategic countries to meet with such potential leaders.

Lee, who had arranged the trip to China, continued, “In August, we plan to go to Russia and make contact with next-generation leaders there.”

He said, “Politicians in their 50s, like Gov. Nam Kyung-pil, Gov. Ahn Hee-jung, [Jeju] Gov. Won Hee-ryong and Rep. Kim Boo-kyun have all endured a generation of strife and share a common ground in wanting better governance and cooperation.”

He added, “In the 19th century, the Gaehwapa (Enlightenment Party) and conservatives were divided and could not share the same vision, so the country fell on hard times. That’s why it’s important to go around together speaking of our country’s vision and learning from each other.”

Lee also said, “Our politicians in their 50s need to learn from China’s culture, which gives preference to retirees and cultivates its youth.”

On Thursday, the Korean provincial and parliamentary leaders were scheduled to head to Beijing to meet with senior Chinese officials.

As for their upcoming visit to Russia, he said, “For politicians to contribute to Korea’s future, they need to understand the fate faced by the Korean Peninsula and draw out their talking points and visions with the United States, China, Japan and Russia.”

On the elections next year, he said, “This group of politicians I am traveling abroad with may become my competition, but rather than fighting to see who becomes president, it’s more important for ruling and opposition leaders to share the country’s vision.”
BY KIM SUNG-TAK [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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