The main opposition Democratic Party (DP) proposed talks with President Park Geun-hye on Saturday as part of efforts to resolve the political stalemate over a parliamentary probe into the spy agency's alleged meddling in last year's presidential election.
"In order to make a breakthrough in the political deadlock, the president and the chief of the main opposition party should get together," Rep. Kim Han-gil, the DP chairman, told Yonhap News Agency. "Who will be able to resolve the current situation, except the president?"
The offer came after the opposition party launched a street protest earlier this week, accusing the ruling Saenuri Party of attempting to sabotage a joint parliamentary probe into allegations that the National Intelligence Service (NIS) meddled in last year's presidential election.
The rival parties have been haggling over how to ensure that two key figures in the investigation -- former NIS chief Won Sei-hoon and former Seoul police chief Kim Yong-pan -- appear at parliamentary hearings.
The opposition DP demands that the investigation committee issue an advance order that the two unconditionally comply with summons, but the ruling party says the demand is unacceptable because a compliance order can only be issued when witnesses snub summons without justifiable reasons.
The DP has also stepped up calls on President Park to state her position on the spy agency scandal and respond to recent calls to reform the NIS. Park has denied any link to the scandal, saying she had no knowledge of the acts, nor did she benefit from the alleged wrongdoing.
In response to the opposition chief's offer of talks, a presidential official said the office has "no reaction" to the proposal. The remark was interpreted to mean that the presidential office thinks the issue should be resolved between the rival parties.
The ruling Saenuri Party also said the issue should be resolved between the two parties.
Rep. Hwang Woo-yea, the chairman of the ruling Saenuri Party, last week proposed a one-on-one meeting with his DP counterpart, Kim Han-gil, to discuss all pending political issues including the recent controversy surrounding the 2007 inter-Korean summit.
The DP has been considering Hwang's proposal.
Later in the day, DP lawmakers held a large rally in central Seoul, demanding Park apologize over the election meddling scandal, punish those responsible for the alleged wrongdoing and carry out a thorough reform of the spy agency.
"It is time for President Park to clearly state her position ... The president should declare a firm commitment to revealing the truth, punishing those responsible and reforming the NIS," DP leader Kim said during the rally.
"The president should candidly apologize if there is something she should apologize for ... The more the president and the Saenuri Party ignore the truth, the more the people will turn their backs on them," he said.
Out of the DP's 127 lawmakers, 112 attended the rally. Some of them later joined a civilian-led candlelight protest denouncing the government over the election meddling scandal. About 3,000 people took part in the vigil, according to police. (Yonhap News)