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Pres. Lee, Opposition Leader Pledge Cooperation

Posted September. 26, 2008 07:35,   


President Lee Myung-bak and the main opposition Democratic Party`s Chairman Chung Sye-kyun yesterday discussed major issues over which the ruling and opposition parties had been sharply divided. The two reached a consensus in many areas.

The two men not only promised bipartisan cooperation to overcome the international financial crisis and resolve the deadlock in inter-Korean relations, but also to make the National Assembly more productive and forge a partnership in handling state affairs.

Political experts said this was an opportunity for the government to restore its strained relationship with the party over the U.S. beef scare.

“Their meeting was as good as it could be,” presidential spokesman Lee Dong-kwan said shortly after the meeting. “The two had very candid and constructive in-depth conversations on pending national issues.”

Both leaders agreed on seven major points: revive the economy; strength inter-Korean relations; seek “green growth”; discover new growth engines; constructively manage parliamentary sessions; revise the provincial administrative system; and forge a partnership for national administration.

The two sides, however, failed to narrow differences over the planned revision of the comprehensive real estate tax and punishment for those who led anti-U.S. beef rallies.

○ Bipartisan effort to revive economy

The largest portion of the meeting was spent on ways to revive the economy and overcome the financial crisis. The two agreed to make bipartisan efforts to revive the economy and overcome the aftershocks of the U.S. financial crisis.

Chung asked for the government’s help to ease the liquidity crunch of small and medium companies and rescue victims of the “knock-in, knock-out (KIKO)" currency option, to which President Lee expressed his strong willingness to do so.

On tax reform, however, including the revision of the comprehensive real estate tax and the replacement of Finance and Strategy Minister Kang Man-soo, the two failed to agree even after more than half an hour of talks.

“Though they extensively talked about lowering the comprehensive real estate and value-added tax rates, the two could not reach a conclusion,” Democratic Party spokesman Choi Jae-sung said. “Lee said he will carefully review our party’s plans as well.”

Spokesman Lee said, “The purpose of the revision of the comprehensive real estate tax is not to reduce taxes for the rich, but to correct the problematic tax system.”

○ Bipartisan cooperation to strength inter-Korean relations

President Lee and Chung also agreed to seek bipartisan cooperation on inter-Korean issues to promote peace on the Korean Peninsula. “To protect national interests, they also decided to join forces for general diplomatic and security issues, not to mention diplomacy with the four powers surrounding the Korean Peninsula,” spokesman Choi said.

President Lee was also positive on Chung’s request to use his party’s inter-Korean network and accumulated know-how on inter-Korean policies.

In addition, the chief executive also reportedly said “yes” to a request for humanitarian aid such as food and fertilizer to the North and promoting the Gaesong Industrial Park project.

“President Lee has expressed several times his willingness to provide humanitarian aid. He simply reiterated his position,” said spokesman Lee.

President Lee, however, did not elaborate on existing agreements between the two Koreas signed in the 2000 and 2007 inter-Korean summits.

○ Partners in handling state affairs

President Lee and Chung also pledged to resolve pending national issues as partners in handling state affairs. Lee also promised to visit Chung whenever a major issue arises.

“In this era of global competition, we have to change our way of thinking for the people and the nation and develop the relationship between the ruling and opposition parties into a partnership,” said President Lee.

He also urged Chung to help pass bills on economic revival and reform, adding that this National Assembly session is crucial to restore the economy and lay a foundation for advancement to make a productive parliament. In response, Chung said the Assembly should ease the pain of the people under the growing pressure of financial woes.

On the bipartisan agreement to cooperate in seeking “green and low CO2 growth,” Chung jokingly said, “That was originally the (now defunct) Uri Party’s top agenda. I’m eager to take the leading role.”

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