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Opposition party ends parliamentary boycott, rejects talks with president

The main opposition Democratic Party (DP) said Sunday it decided to rejoin parliamentary sessions, a move to put the National Assembly on a normal track after two months of paralysis.

Sohn Hak-kyu, head of the party, however, said he refuses a proposed bilateral meeting with President Lee Myung-bak, claiming Lee lacks seriousness on dialogue.

"The life of low- and middle-income people is really heading toward a crisis," Sohn said in a press conference to announce the party's decision. "It is not a political rhetoric. If this continues, it will only lead to despair."

He added, "Although the Lee Myung-bak administration, which has entered the path of dictatorship, makes fools of the people, (we) will open parliamentary session for the people."

Sohn said the DP was not attaching any conditions to its move to normalize the National Assembly. The party initially demanded that the president offer a public apology for the ruling Grand National Party (GNP)'s unilateral handling of a budget for 2011 on Dec. 8. The DP believes the president pulled strings.

Sohn said he will not pursue a pointless meeting with the president, whom he claimed has no intent on talks. 

Appearing on a televised talk show early this month, Lee said he was willing to meet bilaterally with the DP leader to help break political impasse.

Separately talking to reporters, DP floor leader Park Jie-won remained guarded about when the DP wants to open a parliament session.

"We are not in a stage yet to say when it will be," he said, heralding a bout of debates with the GNP over the schedule of an extra session of the National Assembly slated for this month.

Park stressed that the upcoming session will focus on improving the people's livelihood amid the constant spread of foot-and-mouth disease, soaring inflation, skyrocketing home rental prices, job shortages, and sharp inter-Korean tensions.

He ruled out the possibility of discussions on the sensitive political issue of whether the country should revise the Constitution written in 1987.

The GNP welcomed the DP's decision to return to the National Assembly.

"It is late but fortunate," the party's floor leader Kim Moo-sung told Yonhap News Agency in a phone interview. "We will make efforts to open the National Assembly at an early date through consultations with the opposition party."

The presidential office Cheong Wa Dae, meanwhile, put the blame on the DP for failing to organize the Lee-Sohn meeting.

"The DP is the very side that abandoned the meeting and it is now trying to pass the buck to Cheong Wa Dae," a senior official at the presidential office said, requesting anonymity. "The opposition party's participation into a parliamentary session is not a subject for political bargaining but a natural duty as a responsible party."

The president remains unchanged in his position that he can have candid dialogue with the opposition leader without any preconditions to discuss overall state affairs and major pending issues, he added. (Yonhap News)

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