10/14/2005, 00.00
SOUTH KOREA
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Seoul government and opposition disagree about overtures to Pyongyang

by Theresa Kim Hwa-young

Seoul (AsiaNews) - Moon Hee-sang, president of the governing party "Uri" today declared his intention of organizing a second summit between the governments of Seoul and Pyongyang as soon as possible. "As the ruling party chairman I will take the lead at this turning-point, in which the fate of 70 million Koreans is being decided.''

In a speech to the National Assembly, he emphasized that "to guarantee peace in the peninsula, collaboration between the leaders of the two countries and their respective governments is necessary. We already signed a memorandum of understanding with the Chinese Communist Party last September. Now is the time to collaborate with Pyongyang to create a climate of trust and to move towards peace and prosperity. I am willing to visit North Korea to achieve these objectives." He closed by saying that inter-parliamentary talks were very important to progress along such a path.

The main opposition party, the "Grand National Party" (GNP) lost no time in criticizing Moon. Chun Yu-ok, party leader, said that before asking Pyongyang, the ruling party must obtain public approval for the summit's agenda. He said:

"Moon wants unity with Kim Jong-il and the Workers' Party, not with the South Korean public."

Another proposal of the governing party leader, that is, the setting up of an ad-hoc inter-party committee to change the electoral system and economic polarization in Korea also met with strong criticism from the GNP. According to the opposition party, the primary needs are to revive the economy and to cut taxes.

"Tax revenue this year is expected to suffer a shortage of some 4.6 billion Won," countered Moon. "If we cut taxes on top of that, how can we provide support for some 1.5 million people in need of state aid? We must provide for 210,000 underfed children and 600,000 elderly people in need. It's regrettable that the GNP doesn't offer ways to cut down on expenditures when it calls for the tax cuts.''

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