President Moon Jae-in had a one-on-one meeting with main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) Chairman Hong Joon-pyo at the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae on Friday. The proposal of holding a talk to discuss the upcoming inter-Korean summit was first conveyed to Hong by Presidential Chief of Staff Im Jong-seok Thursday. Hong then suggested that they discuss overall domestic political affairs instead, and Moon accepted the LKP leader’s suggestion. The two sides disclosed the holding of the 80-minute meeting only after the talk began. President Moon’s first one-on-one meeting with the opposition leader holds great significance.
Moon called for bipartisan support for the inter-Korean summit, and Hong said that his party did not “oppose the inter-Korean summit but the summit should result in dismantling North Korea’s nuclear weapons program,” voicing his concern about Pyongyang’s hidden intention and a possible crack in the alliance with the United States. It is desirable that the president sought the understanding and cooperation of the opposition bloc ahead of a summit that can decide the country’s fate. President Moon should not dismiss Chairman Hong’s comments as the conservatives’ worries but should reflect in the preparation for the summit and care more about the strengthening of the South Korea-U.S. collaboration.
Domestic affairs were also dealt with during Friday’s meeting but the communication appeared to have been one-sided. President Moon brought up the stalled parliamentary passage of the government’s supplementary budget bill, and Hong demanded the president retract his proposal for an early constitutional revision and dismiss new Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) chief Kim Ki-sik and stop what his party calls “political retribution.” The opposition leader also called on Moon to dismiss senior presidential secretary for economy Hong Jang-pyo, claiming that he is “the left-wing economist responsible for the current issue of high youth unemployment.” Just reiterating and conveying their own views to each other, they did not seem to have in-depth discussion on key domestic and political issues.
Still, the first one-on-one meeting between the president and the opposition leader is certainly meaningful. Former President Kim Dae-jung had such a meeting with the then opposition head eight times; former President Roh Moo-hyun, two, and his successor Lee Myung-bak, three. Yet, for Moon’s predecessor Park Geun-hye, it was only in her third year in office that she held the first trilateral meeting with opposition leaders. Friday’s meeting was unexpectedly proposed by Moon following an event with an advisory group on inter-Korean relations Thursday afternoon. It is hoped that a meeting can take place after sufficient preparations and the leaders can have in-depth conversations on overall state affairs in the future.