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Pres. Lee Seeking Closer Relations With Lawmakers

Posted September. 07, 2009 08:27,   


President Lee Myung-bak apparently intends to boost the morale of lawmakers, unlike last year when he was derided as “unproductive” for seemingly keeping his distance from the political circle.

A case in point is his recent appointment of 33 ruling Grand National Party lawmakers as special envoys, including 10 to 10 Southeast Asian nations ahead of the Korea-Association of Southeast Asian Nations Commemorative Summit in May. That makes one out of every five party lawmakers as special envoys.

A special envoy is sent abroad to represent Korea on behalf of the president, and is a post carrying a great source of pride. After six-term lawmaker Lee Sang-deuk went to South America last month at the president’s order to secure energy resources abroad, the lawmaker told everyone around him of his mission.

Lawmaker Hong Jun-pyo, who visited five African countries in May, said he was surprised when personally escorted from the airport to the hotel by the Zimbabwean foreign minister in Harare.

The appointment of special envoys is also a means to alleviate intra-party tension. A delegation of special envoys usually consisting of two to five lawmakers includes figures who support either President Lee or former party Chairwoman Park Geun-hye.

A pro-President Lee lawmaker said, “If you spend more than a week abroad with another lawmaker, you begin to understand them even if you didn’t know him well in the beginning.”

Special envoys must submit reports to the president or tell him in person the results of their trips, so their missions are deemed important.

In addition, President Lee is hosting more luncheons or dinners with lawmakers at the presidential office. He had lunch with the chairmen of the ruling party’s policy committees Aug. 25 and dinner with 11 floor leaders two days later.

This was followed by a luncheon with 19 women lawmakers Tuesday and an unofficial meeting over tea with four lawmakers who previously belonged to the Federation of Korean Trade Unions.

A lawmaker who attended the floor leader dinner said, “President Lee talked about how he met a tribal leader in Africa and shared a funny incident. I was under the impression that he was trying hard.”

At the luncheon with women lawmakers, the president made them burst into laughter by saying, “My wife was not at the Liberation Day ceremony so rumors began circulating that my marriage hit a rough patch. But she really had to stay home because she sprained her ankle while playing badminton. In fact, things have never been better between us lately.”

Lawmakers who attended the luncheons and dinners were also positive about President Lee’s efforts to reach out. Party spokeswoman Cho Yun-seon, who was at the women lawmakers’ luncheon, said, “He seemed well aware of how lawmakers are doing these days. I could feel he was really interested.”

President Lee’s advisers are reportedly reviewing plans to invite lawmakers from standing committees or those from opposition parties.

President Lee also dropped by a dinner for a state affairs workshop for his advisers Saturday. “There are those who have no time for their families because they are busy with work. But I do not see them as capable. I’ve always had time for my family even if I’m busy.”

Around 170 high-ranking advisers and their spouses attended the dinner.

The president also said, “There are many great coffee shops nearby Cheong Wa Dae (the presidential office) at Seoul’s Samcheong district. I suggest you have a romantic evening with your wives after the dinner is over.”