Politicians in their prime try working across the divide

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Politicians in their prime try working across the divide

Mid-career politicians with presidential aspirations, both liberal and conservative, are increasingly working together to bring about a rare initiative in the 20th National Assembly, though one marred by partisan conflict.

The trend was visible at the dinner to mark the launch of a new forum sponsored by the J Global-Chatham House-Future Consensus Institute. The forum’s theme was “Strategy and Vision for 21st Century Eurasia: Enhancing Asian-European Cooperation.”

Saenuri’s Rep. Na Kyung-won, Gyeonggi Governor Kyung-pil and Jeju Governor Won Hee-ryong attended the dinner. Minjoo’s Rep. Kim Boo-kyum and South Chungcheong Governor Ahn Hee-jung also participated. Woo Yoon-keun, secretary-general of the National Assembly, and Lee Kwang-jae, former Gangwon governor and vice president of the Future Consensus Institute, were also there.

All of them are in their 50s with considerable political experience and ambitions. Woo is 59, Kim 58 and Na 53. Nam, Ahn and Lee are all 51 years old.

“In order to resolve the issues concerning the two Koreas and unification of the Korean Peninsula, we thought it would be desirable for politicians of similar ages from Korea, the United States, China, Japan and Russia to work together,” Lee said. “I contacted politicians in China with Nam, while Woo used his network in Russia. Kim and Won contributed by connecting us to Japanese politicians. Recently, Ahn shared his network in China.”

“We have different thoughts on the specifics of Northeast Asia’s peace, the North Pole Route and Korean unification,” Na told the JoongAng Ilbo. “But it is important for the politicians from the ruling and opposition parties to talk in order to achieve something.”

“A proposal was also made that the National Assembly should create a special committee to address the economic issues of Northeast Asia,” Kim said.

They also plan to jointly create study groups in the legislature to research the United States, China, Japan and Russia.

Their movement draws particular attention as it comes ahead of the presidential election in 2017. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is favored by ruling party politicians while Moon Jae-in, former Minjoo chairman, is leading the polls on the liberal opposition side and Kim, Na, Nam, Won and Ahn are planning to make bids.

“During the so-called three-Kim era of the past Korean political culture, those in power could give political funds and influence to arrange a victory,” said Lee. “But today, nominations are made in a bottom-up system. It is a new era that is more suitable for those who are seeking to find a path through joint, bipartisan efforts.”

“Because we share the future vision of creating a community for Northeast Asia’s peace and prosperity, we will be able to accomplish cooperative governance by reaching across the aisle no matter which one of us will become president,” Nam said, referring to his experiment of coalition governance in Gyeonggi Province.

BY LEE JI-SANG, JUNG HYO-SIK [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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