Go to contents

[Op-Ed] Thwarted Meeting

Posted December. 04, 2008 08:17,   


The luncheon meeting between President Lee Myung-bak and chairmen from three major parties scheduled for yesterday was derailed. The presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae reportedly persuaded main opposition Democratic Party Chairman Chung Sye-kyun to attend two hours before the meeting after listening to Lee Hoi-chang, the chairman of the minor conservative Liberty Forward Party. Chairman Lee said, “A meeting without Chairman Chung doesn’t look good,” but Chung snubbed the request. The disruption of the meeting, which was originally set to be held without Chung because he turned down the invitation, has put all three party chairmen along with President Lee in the hot seat.

On the postponement of the meeting, Cheong Wa Dae said, “The nonattendance of the main opposition party chairman was meaningless because the meeting was to discuss bipartisan cooperation on measures to ride out the financial crisis and the settlement of the budget bill.” This makes sense, but if the presidential office had really wanted Chung to attend, it should have gone all out to persuade him. It is regrettable that Cheong Wa Dae belatedly pleaded with Chung at the request of Chairman Lee. Chung is now busy addressing his party’s internal division over policy directions. In addition, Cheong Wa Dae is pushing for one-on-one talks between President Lee and Chairman Lee at the request of the Liberty Forward Party. All of these developments might have forced Chung to reject the invitation.

Experts say Cheong Wa Dae delayed the meeting considering its political implications. Given that Democratic Party’s cooperation is essential to pass the 2009 budget bill and other pending measures to minimize the pain of low-income earners, Cheong Wa Dae seems to have concluded that Chung’s absence will further aggravate the situation. Some say the presidential office intends to indirectly pressure the Democratic Party. Cheong Wa Dae has nothing to lose because the party’s continuous rejection will invite public criticism for turning a blind to the people’s livelihood, they say. The internal problem in Chung’s party is so complicated, however, that he could not attend the meeting.

Reform-minded members of the Democratic Party have set up the “Democratic Coalition” and have announced a goal of establishing an “opposition party within the opposition party.” This has signaled the start of a factional fight for the party’s identity. Outdated slogans such as “recovery of the opposition spirit,” “clear-cut opposition” and “anti-dictatorship struggle” have reemerged. As if Chung was affected by the intensifying struggle against the ruling party, he reacted to that party’s unilateral push for the passage of the budget bill by boycotting the standing committee. Some within the party say his get-tough stance will not translate into a rise in popularity, but the prospect of Chung’s participation in the Cheong Wa Dae meeting has nonetheless grown dimmer.

Editorial Writer Yuk Jeong-soo (sooya@donga.com)