President Lee Myung-bak was to make a rare visit to the National Assembly on Tuesday to appeal for quick approval of South Korea's long-pending free trade agreement with the United States.
The main opposition Democratic Party (DP)said it would meet with Lee and convey public concern about the trade pact's possible impacts on the local economy. The party is opposed to the deal, especially a dispute-settlement clause that it claims favors the U.S.
When the presidential office announced Lee's parliamentary visit plan last week, the DP initially said it would boycott any meeting with him, denouncing the move as an attempt to "build justification" before Lee's ruling Grand National Party railroads the deal through parliament.
But the party backed down from the position apparently over concern that such a hard-line stance could be seen by the public as too uncompromising and may backfire. DP floor leader Kim Jin-pyo said Tuesday he and party leader Sohn Hak-kyu will attend a meeting with Lee.
Also expected to attend the meeting are GNP leaders and National Assembly Speaker Park Hee-tae.
"We will use this opportunity to say that the presidential office and the administration should not pressure us into forcefully handling (the pact) so that the ruling and opposition parties can resolve it through sufficient dialogue," Kim said.
Tuesday's visit to the National Assembly will effectively be Lee's first in three years, although technically he went there in 2009 to attend the funeral ceremony for former President Kim Dae-jung. Since taking office in early 2008, Lee has made only four visits to parliament, including those for his inauguration ceremony and the funeral for the late president.
The unusual move reflects the urgency that Lee feels on the need to break the parliamentary impasse over the pact that the U.S. Congress approved during Lee's state visit to Washington last month. The two countries hope the agreement will go into effect as of Jan. 1.
Lee believes the landmark accord will boost exports, create jobs and strengthen the alliance with Washington. In a radio address Monday, Lee said the pact is a "survival strategy" for South Korea as it will help the country tide over global economic crises.