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Park to hold meeting with party leaders

President Park Geun-hye will meet the leaders of Korea’s two main parties next week to discuss her recent trip to the Middle East, Cheong Wa Dae said Thursday, as the president seeks to cast off her uncommunicative image and gain support for her economic revitalization plans.

The meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, will be Park’s first face-to-face meeting with her former presidential election rival Rep. Moon Jae-in of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy.

Moon, who took a back seat in his party after losing the election in 2012, returned to political spotlight by winning the party’s chairmanship last month.

They will be joined by the ruling Saenuri Party’s Kim Moo-sung, Park’s former campaign manager.

Officials said Park would explain the achievements she made on her recent trip and request bipartisan support for her reform drive and pending economy-related bills.

Park has so far held three-way talks three times since she entered office in early 2013, and one separate meeting with the opposition party leadership.

Critics say Park will make full use of the meeting to build momentum for her delayed reform drive and restore public confidence by seeking to cast off her image of being a leader who lacks communication. Her “rigid” and “closed-off” leadership have been a constant subject of criticism.

Earlier this year, Park sought a turnaround in light of declining approval ratings, by conducting a partial Cabinet reshuffle and replacing her chief of staff Kim Ki-choon who was criticized for exercising too much power in state affairs.

Her approval ratings rebounded to near 40 percent last week. Her achievements in the Middle East and a revival of conservative support in the wake of the attack against the U.S envoy on March 5 may have contributed to the rise of the figures, observers noted.

Moon, meanwhile, is expected to try to seize the spotlight at the meeting, by raising issues related to the economy and national security and pressing Park to withdraw welfare policies that are being carried out without a major increase in taxes.

For Moon, the meeting with the president is likely to be an opportunity for him to gain public recognition as the leader of the main opposition party and establish his image as the next presidential candidate, according to some observers.

Park, meanwhile, also invited Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo, National Assembly Speaker Chung Ui-hwa, Korea National Election Commission chairman Lee In-bok, Supreme Court chief justice Yang Sung-tae and Constitutional Court chief Park Han-chul to her office on Friday afternoon to brief them on the achievement from her trip, the presidential office said. It is rare for a president to meet the five chiefs to present her overseas achievements.

The meeting is meant to expand her communication with the public, Park’s spokesman said.

By Cho Chung-un (christory@heraldcorp.com)
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