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[Herald Interview] G20 speakers to gather in Seoul for talks

Speaker Park says Korea should take leading role in promoting world peace


Following Seoul’s hosting of the Group of 20 summit last year, the National Assembly speaker is set to lead a meeting of G20 parliamentary speakers next week.

“We are now living in a global era and the parliament, as the state’s key legislative organ, should keep pace with the changing world,” Park Hee-tae told The Korea Herald.
National Assembly Speaker Park Hee-tae (The Korea Herald)
National Assembly Speaker Park Hee-tae (The Korea Herald)

Park, a six-term lawmaker, is scheduled to chair the G20 Seoul Speakers’ Consultation, which will start next Wednesday.

Over the three-day forum, speakers of G20 nations’ parliaments will meet to discuss the theme “Safe World, Better Future.”

Regional representatives of non-G20 states and of the International Parliamentary Union will also attend.

The Seoul convention follows the initial meeting in Ottawa last September under the initiative of the Canadian Senate, during which Park suggested Seoul as the next venue.

“It was the consensus among participating countries that Korea, as the successful host of the G20 summit, should chair the meeting,” said Park.

“Our country has become a major figure in the international community and is now to take a leading role in promoting global peace and order.”

Based on the agenda of “Development and Growth for Common Prosperity,” speakers will tackle global issues which require in-depth parliamentary discussion, and share their legislative experiences regarding development.

Also, a special session will be allocated to design countermeasures for responding to terrorist attacks and natural disasters, which have recently devastated many parts of the world.

“Parliamentary diplomacy has now become a crucial role of the parliament these days,” Park said.

“It is an indispensable means to back up inter-governmental diplomacy and help achieve detailed inter-state agreements on important issues.”

Because the consultation involving only leading countries is a condensed version of the regular IPU conventions, its substance will be relatively more fruitful, Park also said.

“Our goal is to adopt a joint statement during next week’s consultation and confirm the event as a permanent one to be held on a yearly basis in the future,” he said.

Now that the conference is to start in less than a week’s time, the assembly building in Yeouido is bustling with last-minute preparatory steps.

“It is significant that a series of its events in pursuit of global peace and coexistence should take place in Rotunda Hall, a symbolic and historic place in Korean parliamentary history,” the senior lawmaker said.

It was also there that numerous scuffles among lawmakers occurred over the budget and other controversial bills

“Many people remember the hall as a location of jostling and screaming, but it is precisely for this reason that we have chosen it to host the convention,” the assembly leader said.

Also, the same round table that was used in the G20 ceremony is to be installed in the hall, as a reminder of the peaceful and prosperous meeting, he added.

“I would like to evaluate the current assembly highly for being more active than before in legislation, which is, of course, the fundamental role of the parliament,” he said.

“Though parties have sometimes failed to reach an agreement on some of the issues, the Korean parliament is qualified to lead such a global event, and I hope that the people acknowledge it, too.”

Park has long been reputed for his keen comments as a speaker. He passed the state bar exam in 1961 and pursued a career in the prosecution before joining politics in 1988.

“A rugged path lies ahead of us and we will often find ourselves lost along the way,” the 72-year-old veteran politician said last year upon taking office as assembly speaker.

“I shall make the best use of my wisdom as an older man and lawmaker with decades of experience to pull through such hardships.”

Over the past year, Park has seen partisan conflicts on many occasions, including physical brawls over disputed bills such as free trade agreement ratification.

“Parties should at all times keep in mind that politics is about negotiation,” he said.

“Compromising does not mean defeat or failure, but rather a wise way of obtaining a win-win result.”

Though he expressed regret over inter-party disagreements, he said that the current assembly has visibly improved in terms of communication and is expected to make rapid progress.

Park, who is also a lawmaker of the ruling Grand National Party, urged the ruling camp to renovate itself, referring to its poor results in last month’s by-elections.

“The GNP has failed to look after the economy and the lives of ordinary people, and this was reflected in the votes,” he said.

“It should consider the failure as a chance to turn over a new leaf and once again devote itself to the people’s demands.”

The speaker also pointed out that the present Lee Myung-bak administration has failed to communicate properly with the people, though it did contribute to the country’s global reputation by hosting the G20 summit and developing the economy.

“My greatest achievement during my past year as assembly speaker is next week’s consultation, which I hope will consolidate the people’s trust in the assembly and our country’s global leadership,” Park said.

“I hope to be remembered as an assembly speaker who has reinforced parliamentary legislative functions.”

By Bae Hyun-jung (tellme@heraldcorp.com)
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