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Party leaders invited up North

Three out of the nine said they likely won’t attend, however
Sept 11,2018

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The Blue House on Monday asked the heads of major political parties to join President Moon Jae-in in Pyongyang for the upcoming inter-Korean summit.

Moon’s Chief of Staff Im Jong-seok, who also serves as head of the summit preparation committee, unveiled a list of nine major political figures that the Blue House invited to accompany Moon to Pyongyang. “I respectfully request them to join the entourage for the Pyongyang summit. I look forward to receiving a positive response,” he said.

The nine political bigwigs are National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang; Vice Speakers Lee Ju-young and Joo Seung-yong; Kang Seok-ho, head of the Assembly’s foreign affairs and unification committee; the ruling Democratic Party (DP) Chairman Lee Hae-chan; Kim Byung-joon, interim leader of the major opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP); Sohn Hak-kyu, head of the Bareunmirae Party; Chung Dong-young, head of the Party for Democracy and Peace; and Lee Jung-mi, chairwoman of the progressive Justice Party.

The presidential office expressed its hopes that the invitation would get a positive response, but it appears unlikely that any of the opposition figures included will accept the invitation.

Kim of the LKP told reporters at the National Assembly that he would decline the offer to join the president’s trip.

“I have questions about what we can actually do in Pyongyang at a time when there is no progress in denuclearization and when we are dealing with the issue of ratifying the Panmunjom Declaration,” Kim said.

Sohn of the Bareunmirae Party indicated that he would not join the trip, saying it would be nothing more than a “show-off without substance” in a radio interview with SBS.

Assembly Speaker Moon was also said to have turned down the invitation, citing his schedule for the ongoing parliamentary session.

DP Chairman Lee, however, expressed his strong support for the plan.

The entourage invitation appears to be intended to win parliamentary support for the upcoming summit, which is scheduled to take place between Sept. 18 and 20 in the North Korean capital. “Until now, the government has led inter-Korean cooperation and dialogue. But there has been much discussion about how the National Assembly should also join the efforts so that [inter-Korean] cooperation could be more assured,” Im said.

He noted that it was “hard to overemphasize the importance of the National Assembly’s role” in fostering ties between the two Koreas. To make a case for inviting opposition figures for the summit, Im cited remarks made by the leaders of the LKP and Bareunmirae Party that encouraged improvements to inter-Korean relations.

Speaking of LKP’s interim leader Kim, Im said, “After he became the head of the LKP’s emergency committee, he said ‘no one could dispute the value of peace. It is not right to overly criticize the formation of a peace regime.’”

On Sohn of the Bareunmirae Party, Im said, “He has always emphasized the importance of peace on the peninsula and inter-Korean cooperation during the course of his political career.”

Im acknowledged, however, that opposition lawmakers could face consequences for accompanying Moon.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]
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