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Lee, Sohn set broad political talks

Leaders to discuss tuition, FTA, savings bank probe and other pending issues


President Lee Myung-bak will meet with main opposition Democratic Party leader Sohn Hak-kyu next Monday, Lee’s aide said Tuesday, to discuss pending issues such as rising tuition fees and the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement which is yet to be approved by the parliaments of both countries.

The ongoing prosecutorial investigation into the corruption scandal surrounding mutual savings banks, measures to create jobs, whether to draw up a revised supplementary budget bill and plans to reduce household debts will also be on the agenda at the Lee-Sohn breakfast meeting Monday.

Lee’s top aide for political affairs Kim Hyo-jae and Sohn’s chief secretary Kim Dong-chul announced Tuesday that the two sides had set the date and the agenda of the talks.

The upcoming talks will be the president’s first meeting with the main opposition party’s leader in three years since Lee sat down for talks with then DP leader Chung Sye-kyun in August 2008, drawing attention to whether it will help break the stalemate between the president and the DP.

Monday’s meeting will be beneficial to both sides should Lee and Sohn manage to reach an agreement on how to cut college tuition and when to ratify the Korea-U.S FTA.

It will be Lee’s third meeting with the leader of the main opposition party since the president took office in February 2008. The first was between Lee and Sohn in May 2008.

Lee and Sohn will be accompanied by their aides in the breakfast meeting, and it has not been decided yet whether Lee and Sohn will hold one-on-one talks as well, Kim Hyo-jae told reporters in a press briefing.

Lee’s senior secretaries Kim Hyo-jae for political affairs and Kim Du-woo for public relations, Sohn’s chief secretary Kim Dong-chul and the DP spokesperson Lee Yong-seop will attend the meeting.

The presidential office and the DP have begun working-level discussions to coordinate agenda items before Monday.

“(Cheong Wa Dae) will try our best to make the meeting fruitful,” Kim Hyo-jae said.

“The results of the talks will be announced (by both sides) or come out in a set of agreements.”

DP’s Kim said the two sides agreed to add the Korea-U.S. FTA ratification at Cheong Wa Dae’s request to the five agenda items that the DP proposed.

Lee is scheduled to hold luncheon meetings with lawmakers on the parliamentary committees for defense on Wednesday and for foreign affairs, trade and unification on Thursday. The DP legislators on the committees had refused to attend the meetings before Lee meets with their leader Sohn. Sohn had proposed the talks with the president last Monday.

Upon agreeing to meet with Sohn next Monday, Lee requested the DP lawmakers attend the luncheon meetings this week.

By Kim So-hyun  (sophie@heraldcorp.com)
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