President Lee Myung-bak on Tuesday directly proposed a meeting with the leader of the Democratic Party, according to his office Cheong Wa Dae, but the main opposition party gave a terse response.
Lee delivered the message during a brief conversation with Sohn Hak-kyu, head of the DP, on the sidelines of a national ceremony in Seoul to mark the March 1 Independence Movement 92 years ago, it added.
“Let’s meet (at Cheong Wa Dae) someday,” Lee was quoted as telling Sohn by presidential spokeswoman Kim Hee-jung. “Sohn said yes.”
She added the mood for the meeting between Lee and Sohn, joined by several other politicians, was amicable.
Lee’s gesture apparently reflects his efforts to win cooperation from the opposition bloc over the ratification of free trade agreements with the U.S. and the European Union as well as a set of pending bills on improving the livelihoods of low-income families.
A senior presidential aide said Lee’s remarks in Tuesday’s meeting with the opposition leader were “prepared,” not made impromptu.
“You can regard them as the president’s formal proposal for talks (with Sohn),” he said on the condition of anonymity.
DP officials said, however, they viewed the president’s comments as just part of routine greetings.
Sohn responded with a smile to the president’s suggestion, they added.
In an appearance on a television talk show on Feb. 1, the president said he was willing to meet Sohn to discuss ways to break a parliamentary impasse following the ruling Grand National Party’s unilateral handling of this year’s state budget bills in a vote boycotted by the DP last December.
Cheong Wa Dae and the DP had working-level contact to arrange the Lee-Sohn meeting. But Sohn refused to hold a bilateral meeting with Lee, claiming Lee lacks seriousness on dialogue. Sohn had called for the president to offer a public apology over the budget bill passage.