A hope of bipartisanshipPresident Moon Jae-in recently held his first regular meeting with floor leaders of five political parties after they agreed in August to meet every three months to discuss a wide range of issues. During the near three-hour lunch meeting, the president and the rival political parties narrowed their differences over a number of issues.
The president agreed to revise laws and systems to ensure fairness in hiring and prevent illicit employment in the public sector as demanded by the floor leaders of conservative parties. The opposition has been calling for a parliamentary probe of Seoul Metro — the subway operator under Seoul Metropolitan City and liberal mayor Park Won-soon — but the demand was rejected by the ruling party. The opposition settled for the president’s promise to conduct a comprehensive probe on hiring practices in public enterprises and act sternly against irregularities.
The president also compromised by expanding the flexibility of working hours within the scope of the 52-hour workweek. The National Assembly should immediately act and revise the law within this year’s regular session instead of putting it off to the February session. The rivaling parties also agreed to fully cooperate with the government to help small merchants, self-employed and low-income workers hardened by minimum wage hikes, business slowdown, and support experimental projects such as in the city of Gwangju that aims to create jobs through public and private collaboration.
They agreed in principle to expand child care subsidies and support both the denuclearization of North Korea and peace settlement based on solid Korea-U.S. alliance.
It is rare for the president to discuss and agree on a wide range of issues with opposition party leaders. Past meetings between the president and opposition parties usually ended with criticisms of one another.
If these kinds of compromises can be made through regular meetings, many political impasses might get resolved. The ruling party might win both the government’s and the opposition’sㄴsupport, while also contributing to the national administration as a stakeholder in state affairs.
But there were many agreements that did not get through. The parties must prove to be different to make the consultative channel meaningful.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 6, Page 30