Key Political Meeting Set

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Key Political Meeting Set

President Kim Dae-jung will meet with the opposition leader Lee Hoi-chang on Jan. 4 at the Blue House to seek a new balance with the largest bloc in the National Assembly.

Soon after the president meets with the opposition leader, he is expected to meet with the honorary chairman of the United Liberal Democrats, Kim Jong-pil.

These meetings are expected to set the tone in the political arena as Mr. Kim's administration enters the second half of his four-year tenure.

And the meetings are expected to yield the outlines of a change in the nation's political landscape. Speculation about a merger between the ruling Millennium Democratic Party, with its 119 seats, and the United Liberal Democrats, with its 17 seats, in the 273-seat National Assembly is unabated.

The meeting with Mr. Lee will be their seventh since Mr. Kim took office in February, 1998. The meetings will increase in frequency, a presidential insider said Thursday.

During the meeting, presidential aides said, Mr. Kim will mainly be listening to the opposition leader, whose cooperation he needs to bring the nation out of another period of economic malaise.

Ruling party insiders said the president will seek the opposition's cooperation by emphasizing that a weakened economy will hold back the next president. In an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo, Mr. Lee promised to offer support to Mr. Kim. Details on Page 2.

The opposition camp's cooperation is needed also to reassure the public. The government does not have an array of policies to lure voters, a political insider said. "The main tool for the government and the president is to appoint personnel not affiliated with the Honam region," he added.

The president has been criticized for appointing personnel and acquaintances from the two Cholla provinces, the power bastion for Mr. Kim, to major government and party posts.

He recently overhauled the ruling party leadership, replacing close aides and senior officials of his "Donggyo-dong" faction. He is expected to follow suit in the coming reshuffle of government.

by Kim Jin-kook

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