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(News Focus) Park moves toward more cooperative relations with parliament

2016/04/26 20:49

By Kim Kwang-tae

SEOUL, April 26 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye said Tuesday that she will consider holding talks with leaders of the ruling and opposition parties regularly, a clear sign that she will work more closely with parliament following a recent election rout by her ruling party.

“I will continue to cooperate with the National Assembly” to improve people's livelihoods, Park said in a meeting with chief editors of several dozen newspapers and broadcasters at Cheong Wa Dae, South Korea's presidential office.

The move indicates that Park recognizes that she could face an uphill battle in the National Assembly when pushing for her reform agenda unless she joins hands with the opposition parties.

She has been pressing for parliamentary approval of a set of bills meant to improve Asia's fourth-largest economy, though no significant progress has been made due to political differences between the ruling and opposition camps.

Park’s ruling Saenuri Party suffered a resounding defeat in the parliamentary elections earlier this month.

The Saenuri Party won just 122 out of 300 seats up for grabs, while the main opposition Minjoo Party and the People's Party secured 123 and 38 seats, respectively. Seventeen other seats are held by other minor party members and independents.

The changed political landscape and South Korea's unique National Assembly Advancement Law effectively means that rival parties need to see eye-to-eye on the any bill before it becomes law. The law requires at least 180 lawmakers to approve a bill before it can move to the plenary session and be voted into law.

The chief executive said she will meet with leaders of the three major political parties soon after her visit to Iran next week.

President Park Geun-hye (2nd from L) addresses chief editors of South Korea's major newspapers and broadcasters at the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae on April 26, 2016. (Yonhap) President Park Geun-hye (2nd from L) addresses chief editors of South Korea's major newspapers and broadcasters at the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae on April 26, 2016. (Yonhap)

Park is set to embark on a four-day trip to Tehran on Sunday as part of South Korea's efforts to boost ties with and tap into business opportunities in the resource-rich country.

“I think it would be better to manage state affairs through dialogue, compromise and consultations,” Park said.

She also floated the idea of forming a consultative body that would be composed of ruling and opposition parties as well as the government as part of efforts to improve communication.

So far, the government has held policy consultative meetings with only the ruling party. The change in this framework would allow the opposition’s voice to be heard and reflected in the policy-making process.

The president has long been branded by her critics as "uncommunicative" for reportedly refusing to listen to what critics and others have to say and insisting on only what she believes to be right.

Park ruled out a Cabinet shake-up, citing security threats posed by North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs.

In South Korea, a president has often used a Cabinet reshuffle to tide over a difficult political situation.

Park said North Korea could conduct a fifth nuclear test at any time, noting Pyongyang has completed all preparations for another underground detonation at its Punggye-ri site in the northeastern part of the country.

There has been speculation that North Korea will carry out another atomic weapons test to consolidate its internal unity ahead of a rare congress of the ruling Workers' Party early next month.

North Korea is thought be holding the congress on May 5, according to a source who is in a position to know about the plan. But Pyongyang has yet to announce when the event will be held.

Meanwhile, Park said that public officials can play golf, a comment that lifted a virtual ban on the sport that has long been seen as reserved for only the rich.

In 2006, Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan quit his job after coming under fire for playing golf on a holiday when rail workers launched a strike, crippling train services nationwide.