Published : 2013-09-16 19:27
Updated : 2013-09-16 21:18
President Park Geun-hye, Saenuri Party chairman Rep. Hwang Woo-yea (left) and Democratic Party chairman Rep. Kim Han-gil walk out of their meeting venue at the National Assembly on Monday. (Yonhap News)
The first three-way talks between President Park Geun-hye and the leaders of the two main parties failed to break the political deadlock Monday, with the opposition condemning the president for simply repeating her initial position without movement toward reform of the spy agency.
“We (the president and I) remained apart on all of our demands,” Democratic Party chairman Kim Han-gil said after the talks. “The dark night of democracy has been extended. We will be returning to the (outdoor protest) tent,” he said.
Political gridlock at the Assembly that has opened for its regular session this month looks to continue after the reluctant gathering of Park, Kim and ruling Saenuri Party chairman Hwang Woo-yea as they failed to come to an agreement.
The DP is expected to continue its protest against the National Intelligence Service’s alleged attempt to meddle in last year’s presidential election, and the purported pressure from Cheong Wa Dae that led to the chief prosecutor’s resignation.
Tense exchanges filled the talks as the opposition demanded that Park apologize for the series of volatile political issues, while Park denied all allegations directed at her.
With regard to the NIS’ alleged smear campaign during the presidential election, Park said she would seek out those responsible when the court decision is made. Former NIS chief Won Sei-hoon and former Seoul police commissioner Kim Yong-pan are currently indicted for violating the elections law.
Park also refused to apologize for the NIS controversy saying that the case occurred during the previous administration, and instead insisted the agency’s reform plan would be innovative.
Park also took time to spin the criticism at her liberal rivals, asking why the previous governments of Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun could not implement the agency’s reform.
To the DP’s claim that Cheong Wa Dae exerted pressure on prosecutor general Chae Dong-wook to resign over a personal rumor, Park said she could not understand the accusation and said his resignation will remain pending until the allegation is clarified.
Concerning the difficulties of financing her welfare pledges, Park said she would consider raising taxes when necessary through public consensus. The administration has vowed to implement Park’s high-profile welfare projects without tax increases.
The three-way talks was held in a hostile setting as the political wrangling took to new heights last week upon Chae’s offer to resign after the Justice Ministry ordered an inspection of him to investigate a conservative newspaper’s claim that he had a child out of wedlock in 2002.
The DP claimed that Chae was forced out of his seat for pushing through the investigation into allegations of the NIS’ smear campaign and that Cheong Wa Dae was behind it all.
Coming out of the talks, the Democratic Party expressed dissatisfaction and repeated their demands of Park at the party’s general meeting.
“While many words have been exchanged, there was not one correct answer,” Kim told reporters.
During the talks, Kim held the NIS accountable for damaging democracy by actions such as unilaterally releasing the inter-Korean summit talks transcript.
With regard to the NIS, Kim demanded that the president apologize for the NIS’ alleged political interference, punish those involved, and enable a parliament-led reform of the agency.
The DP also took issue with Cheong Wa Dae’s purported role in Chae’s resignation and demanded it halt interference into the trials of Won Sei-hoon and Kim Yong-pan.
“Hopes for reviving democracy through the talks have been quashed,” Kim said.
During the talks, Kim handed Park a document specifying the DP’s proposal for NIS reform, which included separating the North Korea- and espionage-related functions of the agency, removing its investigative rights, and strengthening the Assembly’s control over the agency’s budget.
In the report, the DP specified cases of other countries and similar reform plans that had been submitted in 2003 by the Grand National Party, the precursor to the Saenuri Party, as well as the GNP’s move in 2006, joined by Park at the time, to fortify the agency’s political neutrality.
Saenuri Party chairman Hwang proposed making the three-way talks a customary gathering.
“Gathering in one place to discuss different views and position will lead to better understanding and trust, which will lead to higher, stronger and unified state policies,” he said.
Cheong Wa Dae, meanwhile, praised the talks as having shown Park’s “new politics,” by volunteering to go to the Assembly to meet with the leaders and allowing the opposition to deliver her remarks without any prior or under-the-table negotiations.
Prior to the three-way meeting, Park briefed the Assembly speaker and the leaders of the parties on her trips to Russia and Vietnam earlier this month.
Park proposed setting up a special discussion committee of the major parties for future presidential overseas trips in support of her “sales diplomacy” drive.
By Lee Joo-hee (email@example.com)