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Dissension within DP over united opposition to KORUS FTA

The Hankyoreh, Seoul

Dissension within DP over united opposition to KORUS FTA

DP mayors along with a strong minority of lawmakers are calling for negotiations

By Kim Oi-hyun and Jung In-hwan

19 November 2011

Controversy is flaring within the Democratic Party (DP) over remarks about the South Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA) by Incheon Mayor Song Young-gil and South Chungcheong Governor Ahn Hee-jung.

At a morning meeting Friday, DP Supreme Council member Chung Dong-young said, “Some of the Democratic Party’s local government heads are exhibiting the mistaken perception that we should not change our position on [the KORUS FTA] because it was developed under the Roh Moo-hyun administration.”

“This is a matter of concern, as it deals a profound blow to the party’s united front on the KORUS FTA issue,” Chung said. “This stands in very stark contrast with the way [Seoul Mayor] Park Won-soon pointed out specific problems with the KORUS FTA and made a request to the administration [for reexamination] as soon as he was elected Mayor of Seoul,” Chung added.

Gangwon Gov. Choi Moon-soon also directed roundabout criticisms at Song and Ahn on Friday.

“The pursuit of the KORUS FTA is an area where we should be reflecting on the errors of the previous administration, not calling for [policy] continuity,” he said.

Meeting with reports Friday, Choi said, “The KORUS FTA is a leading example of a mistake among the measures pushed by the Roh administration.”

“Not everything is perfect simply because it was pushed by the last administration,” Choi added. “In fact, we now have the opportunity to correct that wrong.”

Previously, Song said during a special meeting for Gwangju government employees Thursday, “It is the height of irresponsible politics for the same Democratic Party that pushed the FTA when it was in power to then say they had no idea about its toxic provisions.”

Song also said, “We cannot have them looking for excuses not to do the FTA or attaching new conditions. We just need to address [the unsatisfactory areas] and finish with it.”

Ahn also posted a Twitter message Wednesday in which he called the KORUS FTA situation a “controversy over openness and trade policy” and said, “We should not switch positions on a policy we pushed for simply because a different administration is in office.”

Song’s camp said that the mayor believes that unconditional opposition is inappropriate and that the DP should cooperate with the ruling Grand National Party (GNP) on passing the ratification motion.

Ahn’s camp explained his comments as meaning that the differing positions on the KORUS FTA should “not be simplified into a good vs. evil issue.”

Meanwhile, fully 47 of the DP lawmakers were found to be “hard-liners” who say the party should stick to its established position on ratification of the KORUS FTA. The DP has 87 lawmakers in the National Assembly.

Lawmaker Jong Bum-goo, who spearheaded the signature campaign, explained, “At the general meeting of lawmakers on Wednesday, we had 13 people calling for negotiations and 13 saying we must stick to our platform, and we signed to communicate to floor leader Kim Jin-pyo that more lawmakers were actually in favor of sticking to the platform.”

Jong said he sealed the list of signatories and contents and hand-delivered it to Kim.

The gist of the document the lawmakers signed is that there is no reason for the DP to alter its basic principles and that should be renegotiations at least on the issue of the investor-state dispute (ISD) provisions.