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Blue House pushes LKP to join multi-party talks

May 16,2019
The Blue House on Wednesday urged the main opposition conservative Liberty Korea Party (LKP) to follow through on its earlier promise to participate in talks with the administration and four other political parties, and rejected its chairman’s demand for a one-on-one summit with the president.

“The consultative council of the administration and the ruling and opposition parties is an agreement of the five parties, and we hope to have a meeting as soon as possible,” a senior presidential aide said Wednesday. “It is a promise made after a very difficult process, and we want it to be kept at all costs. If this promise is broken easily, how can we make any promises in the future?”

In an attempt to end the political standstill caused by the main opposition LKP’s boycott of the National Assembly, the Blue House proposed two channels of dialogue with political leaders since last week.

During his special interview with KBS on May 9, Moon said he wants to meet with leaders of the ruling and opposition parties to discuss a plan to offer humanitarian food aid to North Korea.

The idea of engaging political parties expanded further this week, when Moon proposed that he wants to restart a stalled consultative council with five major political parties.

During the cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Moon said a bipartisan effort is necessary to pre-emptively counter uncertainty in the economy, and expressed hope that the National Assembly would pass a supplementary budget bill.

He then said that the consultative council of the administration and the ruling and opposition parties must hold a meeting as soon as possible.

“After the consultation, it is possible to have a meeting with the heads of five parties,” Moon said, adding that he is willing to discuss issues other than food aid if he meets with the political leaders.

In August last year, Moon and five major political parties - the ruling Democratic Party (DP) and four opposition parties, including the main opposition LKP - agreed to form a consultative council. The first meeting of Moon and five floor leaders took place in November last year, but a second meeting has yet to take place, although it was originally scheduled for March.

The LKP has rejected both offers for talks. LKP Chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn has said he is willing to sit down with Moon one-on-one, not alongside other political leaders.

“If it is a summit that will discuss all ranges of issues, then it is possible,” he said Friday. “A proper negotiation is impossible if there are too many people involved. It must be an actual consultation with the largest opposition party.”

The LKP’s floor leader, Rep. Na Kyung-won, also said she wants only the three largest parties to participate in the consultative council. The LKP demanded that the Justice Party and the Party for Democracy and Peace, both considered liberal allies of the administration, be excluded from the consultation, saying that they are not large enough to be a part of negotiations.

Earlier Wednesday morning, Rep. Lee Won-wook, deputy floor leader of the DP, told reporters that it is possible to propose reducing the members to the DP, LKP and Bareunmirae Party to the Blue House if that is the only obstacle to holding the meeting.

The Blue House, however, said it won’t concede. “Lee did not mean to reduce the consultation members to three parties,” the senior Blue House official said. “He was just saying that it is possible to make recommendations to the president, after which the three negotiation blocs will meet and share opinions.”

As the controversy grew on the form of the meeting, not its content, Moon told his aides to leave all possibilities open if the National Assembly makes any proposal that could end the current deadlock, a Blue House source told the JoongAng Ilbo.

“That means the president will accept any form of dialogue agreed to by the ruling and opposition parties,” said the senior presidential aide. “But the precondition is that it must produce an outcome that is accepted by all parties, including the Justice Party and the Party for Democracy and Peace.

“At the meeting with the heads of political parties, normalizing the operation of the National Assembly must be agreed on,” he said. “If the president sits down with Hwang without any prior consensus, they will just have a fruitless political confrontation.”

The source also said Moon did not completely reject an exclusive meeting with Hwang after meeting with the five political leaders.

When he was the head of the opposition party, Moon had two meetings with then-President Park Geun-hye at the Blue House in 2015. The first meeting was attended by Moon, Park and the then-ruling party chairman, and the second meeting was expanded to include floor leaders of the two parties. No agreement, however, was made after the two meetings, as Moon and Park failed to find any common ground.

Another key official at the Blue House also said both the Blue House and the LKP urgently need to strike a deal.

“The LKP needs a face-saving way to end its boycott of the National Assembly, and the Blue House also needs the legislature’s cooperation,” he said. “So a compromise is expected at a proper level.”

Speculation is running high that the May 18 Democratization Movement commemoration ceremony on Saturday, which political leaders are expected to attend, will create a breakthrough.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]