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Opposition leader calls off talks with Park amid resistance

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Published : 2016-11-14 21:13
Updated : 2016-11-15 16:09

The chief of the main opposition party late Monday called off a meeting with President Park Geun-hye slated for Tuesday, in the face of resistance over a possible crack in the opposition camp’s united front against the beleaguered commander in chief. 

Rep. Choo Mi-ae of the Democratic Party of Korea proposed one-on-one talks with Park earlier in the day, seeking to “accurately deliver” public sentiment and explore ways to defuse the snowballing crisis, amid an influence-peddling scandal involving the president’s longtime friend Choi Soon-sil.

Yet the offer drew sharp rebuke from the minor opposition People’s Party and Justice Party -- which has forged an alliance with the Democratic Party against Park’s leadership -- as Choo had neither consulted with them, nor with many in her own party. 

Rep. Choo Mi-ae (Yonhap)














































“During our party’s general assembly, we had reached consensus that President Park must step down. And as the view has been made public, many people called for the Cheong Wa Dae meeting to be canceled, and I respect that,” Choo told reporters after a late-night gathering of the party.

“As head of the main opposition party, I was trying to accurately deliver the public sentiment shown during a candlelight vigil, because the president failed to offer a sincere apology and is apparently struggling to grasp the sentiment,” she added, referring to last Saturday’s rally that brought together more than 1 million citizens in central Seoul. 

Critics called Choo’s proposal “ill-timed,” citing the prosecution’s plan to question Park as early as Wednesday, and said it “runs against” the people’s ever-growing calls for her resignation.

The opposition had rejected Park’s earlier call for talks last week, demanding the president first give a clear sign she would take a back seat and hand over her state governance authority to a prime minister endorsed by the National Assembly. 

The three opposition parties had also joined the street protests together.

People’s Party interim chief Rep. Park Jie-won also accused Choo of inciting “division” within the opposition.

The about-face is expected to deal a blow to Choo, who took helm of her party less than three months ago.

Cheong Wa Dae expressed regret but said its offer remains intact and the door is still open for talks “at any time regardless of the formality.”

By Shin Hyon-hee (heeshin@heraldcorp.com)