Park Jie-won encourages a summit with Kim Jong-un

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Park Jie-won encourages a summit with Kim Jong-un

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Park Jie-won

Rep. Park Jie-won, acting head of the minor opposition People’s Party, urged President Park Geun-hye Wednesday to hold a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and push for a constitutional amendment altering term limits on the Korean presidency before her term ends in February 2018.

In his speech before lawmakers, Park also called for a profound change in the way Korean politicians do their work “to resolve a myriad of issues facing the country at a time of fast-changing international circumstances.” The People’s Party has 38 lawmakers in the National Assembly.

Touching on the controversy over the deployment of a U.S.-operated missile defense system, known as Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad), and concerns over the North’s capability to launch missiles from submarines under water, the veteran lawmaker emphasized that Seoul must take the lead in pushing for talks with the North to resolve growing tensions with Pyongyang.

“At a time of such fast-changing diplomatic and security circumstances, we must take a lead in improving bilateral relations with the North,” said the 74-year-old politician, adding that holding a summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim would help President Park claim a successful presidency.

Park said that even if the summit didn’t come off, the government’s effort to hold such an event would help ease tensions with the North and give Seoul an upper hand in dealing with Pyongyang.

On a constitutional amendment, many have called for a change to the current single five-year term for the Korean president, which they believe hampers the president’s ability to achieve anything. Park said it was tantamount to a “national overhaul” required for the country to move forward. He demanded President Park make a bold decision to amend the Constitution, noting that an amendment won’t be possible without her support.

Park, former chief of staff for President Kim Dae-jung, is a strong advocate of the Sunshine Policy of engagement with North Korea.

In fact, President Park has made it clear the Kim Jong-un regime should be willing to dismantle its nuclear program before coming to talks and stop military provocations such as a launch of missiles.

Bleak prospect for an improvement in Seoul-Pyongyang relations contrast to the more hopeful atmosphere a year ago when the two Koreas agreed to hold reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War. That atmosphere soured after the North’s fourth nuclear test in January and a long-range missile test the following month. Experts say inter-Korea relations are at rock-bottom with no improvement likely for the remainder of President Park’s term. Under the Korean Constitution, she is barred from running for re-election.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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