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Floor Leaders of 2 Major Parties Debate Major Issues

Posted June. 10, 2009 09:49,   


The ruling Grand National Party and the main opposition Democratic Party yesterday showed the depth of their opinion gap in a public debate between their new floor leaders.

Ahn Sang-soo of the ruling party and Lee Kang-rae of the opposition party took part in the debate at the Korea Press Club in central Seoul. They hotly debated major issues and showed just how apart the two sides are on opinion.

▽ Political retaliation

On the suicide of former President Roh Moo-hyun, Ahn said his death had nothing to do with political retaliation, but Lee blamed what he called a “groundless investigation.”

“Prosecutors had begun an internal investigation into the Park Yeon-cha scandal even before Roh resigned. After Lee Myung-bak was sworn in, the National Tax Service officially filed a complaint on the case to prosecutors,” Ahn said.

“In the investigation, prosecutors found signs that Roh was also involved in the scandal. Even Democratic Party leaders asked prosecutors to investigate the case thoroughly. Those describing Roh’s death as political retaliation are abusing it for their political purposes.”

In response, Lee said, “The investigation began when former tax chief Han Sang-ryule conducted audits on Taekwang Industry in July last year. Han directly reported to President Lee. After receiving relevant information, prosecutors began investigating the Park Yeon-cha scandal.”

“From the beginning, prosecutors decided to investigate Roh. While investigating him, they even leaked to the media details of the investigation and tried to find if Roh made even a small mistake. Isn’t this political retaliation?”

▽ Extraordinary parliamentary session

The ruling party’s Ahn urged the Democratic Party to participate in the extraordinary session of the National Assembly this month, but Lee demanded preconditions.

Ahn said, “Why do you need preconditions? We can discuss an investigation in relation to the government, independent prosecutors and a special committee to reform prosecutors. But, we have to discuss this in the extra session.”

Lee answered, “If you urge Democratic Party members to return to the National Assembly, you mean the decision will be made by majority. We will cooperate with the ruling party only if you suggest responsible answers on Roh’s death.”

▽ Media reform

Ahn urged Lee to abide by the agreements of the Media Act reached in the February extra session of the National Assembly, but Lee said the general public does not want the act.

Ahn defended the act, saying, “At the request of the Democratic Party, we even created an advisory committee to understand public sentiment. We even reflected public opinion by extending the committee’s deadline by 10 days.”

Lee said, “(President Lee’s) evil laws, including the Media Act, just resulted from the administration’s mismanagement. Public sentiment has not been fully reflected. Your argument that the act should be put to a vote is the real intention of the Grand National Party.”

In response, Ahn said, “If an act is created according to the result of opinion surveys, what role should the National Assembly play?”

▽ Temporary workers

On the proposed delay in the implementation of the Temporary Workers Act, Ahn said, “Temporary workers can work only when companies can survive.”

Lee, however, reiterated his opinion by saying, “Temporary workers should be made permanent.”

Ahn said, “If the act is not changed, temporary workers will definitely be laid off. It would be great if the government could provide financial support for companies that make temporary workers permanent, but this is impossible.”

Lee hit back by saying, “It will take a whopping 23 trillion won (18.2 billion U.S. dollars) to restore the nation’s four major rivers. The project is meaningful, but the people are more significant. If you invest 1.2 trillion won (950.1 million dollars), you can give 200,000 temporary workers permanent jobs every year.”

▽ Inter-Korean relations

“After the pipeline connecting the two Koreas was broken, the channel linking the two nations has also been cut. But, I believe this is the process leading to normalization of ties between the two Koreas. The sunshine policy is not enough to deter North Korea’s nuclear programs,” Ahn said.

Lee answered, “North Korea conducted its second nuclear test not because of South Korea’s generous support but because of a hostile stance against North Korea. President Lee should acknowledge the 2000 joint statement and 2007 agreement, change his policy toward North Korea, and abide by the 2005 joint declaration that supports denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and guarantees North Korea’s regime.”

▽ Constitutional revision

The two floor leaders agreed that the Constitution needs revision but disagreed over details.

“Korea’s presidential system needs to be changed to divide responsibilities as France does. But it will be better to deal with this after the economy recovers,” Ahn said.

Lee responded, “We don’t want you to mention the issue to save face at a time when you have many struggles due to Roh’s death.”

The debate was chaired by Lee Mok-hee, chief editorial writer of the daily Seoul Shinmun, and was attended by Park Sung-won, editorial writer of The Dong-A Ilbo; Jeong Seong-geun, commentator of Seoul Broadcasting System; Park Chang-sik, chief reporter of the progressive daily Hankyoreh; and Ryu Hyeon-seong, media science manager of Yonhap News Agency.

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