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Koreans Urge Opposition Parties to Stop Taking to the Streets

Koreans Urge Opposition Parties to Stop Taking to the Streets

Posted June. 11, 2008 08:20,   


More and more politicians are urging opposition lawmakers to join the normal operation of the National Assembly.

First, the Liberty Forward Party (LFP), which had formed a coalition with the other two opposition parties in boycotting the legislature, decided yesterday to perform its legislative duty, a decision that is cracking the coalition’s fragile unity. In addition, the ruling Grand National Party (GNP) is hinting that it may talk with the United Democratic Party (UDP), the largest opposition party, in the near future.

A slew of newly proposed bills designed to cope with rising oil prices and the slumping economy are awaiting the “final touches” of lawmakers. Furthermore, the entire Cabinet turned in their resignations, redirecting public attention to the vegetarian National Assembly with criticism. According to a Tuesday poll by a newspaper, seven out of 10 Koreans do not understand why the lawmakers of opposition parties are refusing to go back to work.

At the same time, the ruling party is pushing them harder against the wall, citing the urgency of handling bills directly aimed at helping suffering Koreans.

At a party meeting at the National Assembly, GNP floor leader Hong Joon-pyo stressed, “We urge the [opposition party] lawmakers to come back and handle the numerous urgent issues caused by high oil prices. That’s the only way Koreans can survive in the tumultuous economy.” GNP spokeswoman Cho Yun-sun added, “Koreans are suffering under the heavy burden of life. Opposition lawmakers should stop hollering slogans on the street. It’s not what our ancestors envisioned, fighting for democracy, years ago.”

The LFP members agreed to carry out their duties as lawmakers, and push for the modification of the “American beef” deal through the legislature. LFP leader Lee Hoi-chang urged the other two parties to follow suit, saying, “I wish our comrades would discuss the issues in the National Assembly with us.”

The decision seems to raise the leverage of the party as mediator of the standoff, and, at the same time, to cater to the growing demand by conservative Koreans for cooperation in the normal operation of the parliament.

But the UDP, the key player, has not budged an inch from its current position.

A UDP source said, “The GNP has not promised to scrap the current [American beef] deal, nor has it promised to discuss a new bill designed to prevent contagious diseases through animals. In this situation, we cannot meet with them. It doesn’t matter whether the LFP members attend the parliament. Everything depends on us in terms of organizing the National Assembly for a new term.”

More and more UDP-friendly voices such as former President Kim Dae-jung and senior UDP member Chund Dae-chul are urging the party to cooperate in the normal operation of the legislative body. Another senior UDP member Chung Sye-kyun highlighted the need for more political dialog.

A number of political commentators are predicting that all parties will sit at the table after a series of large-scale rallies scheduled to commemorate historic events including the first North-South summit are held.

jkmas@donga.com sys1201@donga.com