Democratic Party of Korea leader Lee Nak-yon and People Power Party leader Kim Jong-in had a meeting at the National Assembly on Thursday morning, which was chaired by National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-seug. It was the first official meeting between the two leaders although Lee had visited Kim after he took office. They agreed to pass the fourth supplementary budget as soon as possible.
Lee asked President Moon Jae-in to organize a meeting with Kim at the presidential office on Wednesday. It is said that President Moon emphasized the importance of cooperation between the ruling and opposition parties. However, President Moon and Kim have never had an official meeting although it was discussed multiple times after Kim became a party leader. It seems that now they are left with bitter feelings about each other. While the government and the ruling party are enjoying a good relationship, the ruling and opposition parties are on the opposite side.
To promote real cooperation, the ruling party should let go of political power and reflect upon what they have done wrong. After securing 176 seats in the 21st National Assembly, the Democratic Party of Korea has churned out new laws and elected its members as standing chairmen of most National Assembly committees. This should change. If the ruling party continues to see the opposition party as an obstacle to legislation, real bi-partisan cooperation will not be achieved. The bi-partisan cooperation President Moon mentioned should not mean the opposition party giving in to the ruling party’s demands.
The opposition party will become more cooperative if the ruling party starts to treat it as a political partner and initiates dialogue. They both should take a step back and start working together with policies they agree on and then expand cooperation slowly over time. The two parties saw eye to eye on the second round of disaster relief grants, and it is a great starting point.
Politics have been polarizing the public when we are facing a crisis that might be difficult to overcome even when everyone joins forces. President Moon and Kim should have an open discussion, irrespective of the formalities. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Both the ruling and the opposition parties will face criticism if they obsess over their political interests disregarding the demands of the public.