President Lee Myung-bak and former ruling Grand National Party chief Park Geun-hye have agreed to hold talks around the time of the July 28 by-elections. Their last one-on-one meeting came in September last year. If the two can avoid confrontation and rebuild a sense of cooperation, this can only benefit state administration.
Communication between President Lee and Park is a highly urgent political issue that the ruling camp can no longer afford to delay. Park made a statement at the National Assembly Saturday criticizing the revised bill for the development of Sejong City, something which the president pushed for the countrys long-term development. Lawmakers of the pro-Lee and pro-Park factions were divided in the vote over the bill at the National Assembly. About 100 members of a group backing Park mobilized buses nationwide and gathered in Seoul Saturday to urge defeat for President Lees confidant Lee Jae-oh, who is running in the by-elections. Their campaign shows the internal strife that has split the ruling party, and is hardly the type of behavior members of the same party should exhibit.
With Parks group serving as a de facto opposition party, President Lee can hardly expect seamless state administration in the latter half of his administration and the ruling party to remain in power after the 2012 presidential election. For her part, Park can no longer afford to turn a deaf ear to advice from people around her that she could suffer a backlash if she consolidates a negative image by boycotting state administration, remaining indifferent, and hampering the presidents efforts. The public has long been sick and tired of the ruling partys practice, as the two factions remain divided on all bones of contention and confronted each other over far-reaching state affairs. President Lee and Park have met five times since the 2007 presidential election but have seen internal conflict intensify and results turn out worse than expected had they not held meetings. The two seem to be forced into holding meetings whenever criticism mounts against them. They have bickered over the result of the Grand National Partys 2007 convention for nominating the partys presidential candidate, which Lee won.
Park rejected Friday her proposed appointment as prime minister as suggested by some in the pro-Lee faction in a meeting with the ruling partys new chairman Ahn Sang-soo. Proposals made without adequate trust building and coordination only add to mutual distrust. Since President Lee and Park should share political debt and liability, they must open their minds to jointly take responsibility for state administration and reach a compromise to benefit and send a glimmer of hope to the public, however small the compromise is.
Ahn has proposed grand unity of moderate and conservative groups, and voices in the ruling camp suggest grand unity of conservative groups. Both will simply fuel conspiracy theories and political confrontation and produce no achievements. Whether a President Lee-Park meeting or grand unity of conservative groups, success will come only if the publics trust and expectations are strengthened. In his breakfast meeting with Ahn, President Lee said, I will speak to Park and hold frank talks with her for mutual cooperation. The two should remember that if one cannot sense commitment and truthfulness in the other in building relations as partners of state administration, such a proposal will simply remain theoretical unity that merely entails a one-time dialogue for the sake of the July 28 by-elections.