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[Editorial] Pres. Lee Should Visit National Assembly Speaker

[Editorial] Pres. Lee Should Visit National Assembly Speaker

Posted May. 22, 2008 09:05,   


President Lee Myung-bak will apologize to the country over the government’s handling of U.S. beef import negotiations. He will also urge the National Assembly to ratify the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. It’s a little late but still appropriate. As safety over U.S. beef has largely been addressed, thanks to re-negotiations between the two countries, we need to focus on FTA ratification. If an extraordinary session is reconvened, ratification could be possible by May 29. Therefore, it is essential to gain the support of opposition parties, including the United Democratic Party.

It’s true that the government was not careful in the beef negotiations. Even if the media distorted and exaggerated the facts about mad cow disease and some incited the public with the issue, the government should have predicted it and come up with countermeasures.

We should not waste time with this. If we do nothing, the KORUS FTA will fail. If we miss this opportunity to upgrade the Korea-U.S. alliance in every aspect, from economics to politics to defense, we cannot expect a bright future, not to mention short-term progress.

UDP leader Sohn Hak-kyu must rethink his position. He was the person who supported the KORUS FTA as he understood the value of the deal more than anyone else. But now he says he opposes it. Though leaders of economic organizations have requested Sohn for his cooperation, the opposition leader has rejected them, saying, “Renegotiation comes first.” This is in sharp contrast with UDP lawmaker Chung Eui-yong. As the former director of trade in the foreign ministry, Chung, who knows the issues well, said, “If we got these results [from the additional negotiations], it’s enough to ratify the agreement.” Where is Sohn’s courage and firmness?

It was also distasteful to see Sohn quarrel with U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow over the phone. The ambassador made a call to Sohn yesterday to express his disappointment over Sohn’s comments on U.S. beef safety at a meeting at the presidential office. Enraged, the UDP leader said, “It disregarded protocol.” Later, Ambassador Vershbow disappointedly said, “He disclosed a private conversation.” It seems that they wasted time over minor issues without directly addressing the matter at hand.

President Lee must be more active about taking the lead. He must seek the cooperation of Lim Chae-jung, speaker of the National Assembly. Lim rejected the GNP-sponsored bill calling for the FTA’s ratification. But the president must see him, nonetheless. He should also meet with Lee Hoi-chang, leader of the Liberty Forward Party. Now is the time for the president to move quickly for the sake of the nation.