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Opposition party vows to lead outdoor struggles

Posted August. 01, 2013 04:15,   


The main opposition Democratic Party plans to take to the streets for the first time since the launch of the Park Geun-hye administration amid a deadlock in the ongoing parliamentary investigation into the National Intelligence Service`s alleged meddling in last year`s presidential election.

Kim Han-ghil, the chairman of the Democratic Party, said Wednesday that the party will set up a street campaign headquarters in front of the Seoul city hall and hold a general meeting of its lawmakers at the square at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday.

The move is seen as a last resort for the party amid criticisms over Kim`s leadership, as it had become impossible to summon key witnesses -- former intelligence chief Won Sei-hoon and former Seoul metropolitan police chief Kim Yong-pan -- to parliamentary hearings.

○ Setting up street campaign headquarters

During a news conference, the opposition party leader criticized the ruling Saenuri Party for not cooperating in the probe. "The Democratic Party has been as patient as possible in order to salvage the parliamentary investigation," he said. "Now, the party has run out of its patience."

"Since it has become clear that the presidential office and the Saenuri Party have neither the will to uncover the truth behind the NIS` illegal interference with the presidential election nor willingness to reform the NIS, we can`t hold back any longer," he said, adding that the opposition party will take charge of all protests and negotiations both within and outside the National Assembly.

The party plans to set up tents in front the Seoul city hall to use them as the "headquarters for the national campaign," indicating that it will wage a street campaign for the time being, depending on the ruling party`s attitude.

At the party`s general meeting held at the National Assembly before Kim`s news conference, most lawmakers called for street protests. During the closed-door meeting, Rep. Lee Seok-hyun criticized Saenuri lawmakers for going on summer vacation despite a tight schedule for the probe, urging his fellow members to "boycott" parliamentary processes. Rep. Rhee Mok-hee argued that his party had no choice but to appeal directly to the public, criticizing the government and the ruling party for "unreasonable and senselessness."

○ Under pressure

During the last two months of controversies over a series of political issues, including the NIS scandal and the disappearance of the 2007 inter-Korean summit transcript, the opposition leader Kim dismissed calls for hard-line action against the government and the ruling party. He tried to break away from old opposition parties` habit of taking to the streets at times of extreme parliamentary impasses. Therefore, Kim had often stressed that the most important thing was to uncover the truth behind the NIS` illegal intervention in the presidential election. His side also criticized the party`s hard-liners who called for campaigns outside the National Assembly.

Deadlocked negotiations with the ruling party over putting Won Sei-hoon and Kim Yong-pan on the witness stand at parliamentary hearings, however, pushed the opposition party leadership into a corner, as the two key witnesses` absence would lead the parliamentary probe to nowhere. Internal feuds within the Democratic Party and criticisms over Kim`s leadership put addition pressure on Kim Han-ghil.

Kim is said to have made up his mind to act out during a meeting with his party`s floor representatives. Therefore, observers say, the opposition lawmakers` meeting Wednesday morning was intended to make a cause for beginning the street campaign.

After the decision, however, Kim came under criticism from some lawmakers both for being too late and for dancing to the Saenuri Party`s tune.

The ruling party called the DP`s move a "threat" and a "suicidal act that is tantamount to abandoning the parliamentary probe." Rep. Yoon Sang-hyun, the Saenuri Party`s vice floor leader, argued that the Democratic Party was "intentionally" disrupting the parliamentary probe. "As the opposition failed to achieve its goal of exaggerating ridiculous allegations and turning the parliamentary investigation into a forum for launching a political offensive against the results of the presidential election, it is now trying to overturn the disadvantageous situation," he claimed.