Acting President Hwang pledges sufficient communication with parliament
Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn on Wednesday pledged to ensure "sufficient communication" with parliament, in an apparent move to placate opposition parties wary of his growing assertiveness.
"(I) will solemnly uphold the will of citizens and reflect it well in the entirety of state affairs," he said during a meeting with National Assembly Speaker Chung Sye-kyun. "In the process, I will ensure sufficient communication with lawmakers led by the Assembly speaker."
It marked Hwang's first visit to the legislature since he took over as acting president last Friday following the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye over a corruption scandal involving her and her longtime confidante.
The meeting came as opposition parties are moving to tame the interim leader who has actively engaged in the running of the country contrary to the earlier expectations that he would remain low-key.
Three opposition parties, led by the main opposition Democratic Party, have called for a meeting with Hwang to discuss the scope of his engagement in state affairs.
But his office remains reluctant so far to engage in the opposition-dominated gathering.
Chung pledged "active" parliamentary support for the acting president, expressing expectations that communication between the government and parliament would improve after the ruling Saenuri Party elects new leadership.
Teetering on the verge of a breakup amid a factional feud, the ruling party plans to pick a new floor leader on Friday. Former floor chief Chung Jin-suk resigned Monday to take responsibility for the presidential impeachment, while party leader Lee Jung-hyun has pledged to bow out by next Wednesday.
"When a new leadership of the ruling party is elected, the situation in the National Assembly will stabilize and communication (between the government and parliament) will become smoother," Chung said.
Hwang and Chung discussed a series of pending issues, including the spread of avian influenza, the sluggish economy and Seoul-Beijing relations that have deteriorated due to the planned deployment of a U.S. anti-missile system to South Korea.
Chung, in particular, voiced concerns over Beijing's recent measures against South Korean businesses in apparent retaliation of the plan to install the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system in the country.
Hwang, in response, stressed the need for South Korean firms to make inroads in other foreign markets, though he acknowledged the importance of economic cooperation with China, South Korea's largest trading partner.
"Amid a recent rise in international oil prices, the demand for infrastructure investments in Middle East countries is forecast to increase. Given this, (South Korean firms) have to actively seek to advance into these countries," Hwang said.
The parliamentary chief expressed hopes that the legislature will form a diplomatic contingent of lawmakers to "complement" the government's foreign policy to promote peace and cooperation in Northeast Asia.