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Lee, Park agree on party unity

President Lee Myung-bak and former ruling party leader Park Geun-hye agreed that the party should pay further attention to people’s livelihoods and promote in-party unity in order to win back public trust.

The two leading powers of the ruling Grand National Party met at a luncheon on Friday, the first one-on-one meeting since last August.
President Lee Myung-bak talks with Park Geun-hye, former chairwoman of the ruling Grand National Party, over lunch at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae on Friday. (Yonhap News)
President Lee Myung-bak talks with Park Geun-hye, former chairwoman of the ruling Grand National Party, over lunch at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae on Friday. (Yonhap News)

After the official luncheon schedule, they engaged in a close-door meeting to discuss pending issues, including drawing out the party’s blueprint for next year’s general and presidential races.

The event came amid the party’s recent efforts for renovation after its defeat in the April by-elections.

“I will do my best to support the party and the country,” the former chairwoman told the president.

Lee agreed to her suggestions and also vowed to do the same, while trying to boost the local economy, Park said.

During the luncheon, Park briefed Lee on her visit to the Netherlands, Portugal and Greece last month as the president’s special presidential envoy.

Reps. Kwon Young-se, Kwon Kyung-seok and Lee Jung-hyun, who accompanied her on her trip, joined the presidential luncheon.

“The Portuguese government had a positive impression of Korea and wished to continue the present relationship,” the former chairwoman said.

The two countries celebrated the 50th anniversary of their diplomatic relations this year.

President Lee gave his appreciation to the lawmaker for her efforts.

The Lee-Park talk is considered significant within political circles as the two figures have largely been rivals for the presidential seat.

The GNP, too, has so far been led by the two factions, so-called “pro-Lee” and “pro-Park” groups.

The president, however, stressed in his recent talks with the party’s floor leader Hwang Woo-yea that such in-party factions should be ended in order for the party to unite and win in the elections.

“Both have agreed that the GNP should overcome its long-standing factional strife within the party and its conflicts with the opposition camp to win the elections next year,” said a Cheong Wa Dae official.

Though the luncheon was superficially an occasion for Park to report her visit to Europe as Lee’s envoy, observers within the political circles speculated that it showed a more closely consolidated tie between the two.

“The GNP stands little chance in next year’s presidential race, if strong hopeful Park steps out,” said a pro-Park lawmaker.

“The president may have asked for her candidacy.”

By Bae Hyun-jung (tellme@heraldcorp.com)
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