Yoon and Lee must meet for cooperation

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Yoon and Lee must meet for cooperation

We welcome President Yoon Suk-yeol’s phone conversation with Rep. Lee Jae-myung, who was elected chairman of the Democratic Party (DP) on Sunday. The phone talk offered a ray of hope to a public that vividly saw the extreme confrontation between the governing People Power Party (PPP) and the opposition before and after the March 9 presidential election and the June 1 local elections. President Yoon sent secretary for political affairs Lee Jin-bok to Lee to congratulate him on his election victory in the national convention of the DP and propose a phone conversation.

In the three-minute talks, the two leaders agreed to cooperate on bills related to people’s livelihoods. After President Yoon promised to help Lee play his role as party head, Lee expressed hope for Yoon’s successful presidency. That represents their first step toward cooperation on state affairs.

But actions speak louder than words. Yoon and Lee must meet without adhering to formalities. After Lee proposed a two-way meeting with the president, Yoon responded by promising a meeting between leaders of the two parties as soon as the PPP resolves an internal discord originating with the suspension of former chairman Lee Jun-seok over alleged sexual misconduct. Given the alarming inflation, high interest rates and rapid devaluation of the Korean won on top of worsening external conditions, the two leaders cannot afford to stick with formalities. They must candidly exchange views about a plethora of challenges the country faces. Of course, the sooner the better.

In the last presidential election, Yoon defeated Lee by a razor-thin margin of 0.73 percentage points. If their meeting is held, they cannot champion their rosy campaign promises anymore, not to mention adroitly seeking benefits from the other’s flops.

Ironically, Yoon, a former prosecutor general, and Lee, a former Gyeonggi governor, have no legislative experience in the National Assembly, although Lee was elected legislator in a by-election held on the sidelines of the local elections. If the two political “outsiders” can help change the combative political culture, it could set the foundation for entirely different politics from the past.

If their meeting is to bear fruit, each side must squarely look at harsh reality. Yoon must understand his administration cannot do anything without support from the DP, while Lee must keep in mind that his political future can be gloomy if he is only bent on opposing government policies. Unfortunately, the DP takes a lukewarm position about helping people’s livelihoods, as seen in its opposition to tax benefits for single homeowners after framing it as a tax cut for the rich. We hope a meeting between Yoon and Lee paves the way for cooperation.
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