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(2nd LD) Park says she's firmly committed to NIS reform

2013/08/26 15:28

(ATTN: UPDATES in paras 7-9 with Park sticking to five-way talks with rival parties)

SEOUL, Aug. 26 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye said Monday she is firmly committed to reforming the state intelligence agency accused of meddling in last year's presidential election, reaffirming once again that she never benefited from the alleged wrongdoing.

Park made the remark during a weekly meeting with senior secretaries as the opposition party increased pressure and criticism of her over allegations that the National Intelligence Service mobilized some of its agents to post Internet comments critical of Park's election rival.

The opposition has even likened the scandal to the 1960 election rigging that ultimately forced then-President Rhee Syngman out of office. It has demanded Park state her position on the scandal more clearly, punish those responsible, overhaul the spy agency and fire its chief.

In June, Park denied any link to the scandal, saying she had no knowledge of the acts, nor did she benefit from the alleged wrongdoing. She has since remained largely silent on the case, turning down the opposition leader's offer to hold one-on-one talks on the standoff.

"Even election rigging is being mentioned these days, but I received no help whatsoever from the NIS during the last presidential election and never took advantage of it," Park said during the meeting.

"I will realize without fail a reform of the NIS that the opposition party is demanding," she said. "Reform of the NIS, including reorganizing its structure, has already begun to make sure that the NIS, which is responsible for our security, carries out its original duties properly."

   Park also said she is willing to meet with leaders of the ruling and opposition parties at any time and talk about how to improve the people's livelihoods. The remark briefly spawned speculation she may be willing to hold one-on-one talks with the opposition chief.

But an aide to Park later told reporters that she was referring only to five-way talks that she had earlier proposed in response to the opposition's demand for one-on-one talks. Such a broader meeting would include the chiefs and floor leaders of the ruling Saenuri and the main opposition Democratic Party.

Park wants such talks to focus on non-political issues, the official said.

"The government and the political circles exist for the sake of stabilizing the people's livelihoods, which the people yearn badly for," Park said. "I hope we can live up to the people's expectations and give them hope."

   Park also urged the rival parties to end their political bickering and work harder in a bipartisan fashion to help bring vitality back to the economy and care for the livelihoods of the people.

Park said her top priorities in the second half of the year are to revitalize the economy and create jobs, but uncertainties in the global economy are rising, including the growing possibility of the United States scaling back its monthly bond-buying program, known as "quantitative easing."

   jschang@yna.co.kr

(END)

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