The opposition leader proposed a rare one-on-one meeting with President Lee Myung-bak, saying Monday that he wants to discuss a string of challenges the country faces in an effort to improve people's livelihood.
The offer from Rep. Sohn Hak-kyu of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) comes as the government is grappling with growing calls for lowering college tuition costs and rising home rental prices, and is in the midst of a massive corruption scandal involving savings banks.
"I propose an emergency meeting with the president to discuss the economy and people's livelihood," Sohn said at a party meeting. "I want to sit with the president to have sincere dialogue about crises faced by our society, our people right now."
The presidential office said it is "always open" to such talks.
Senior presidential spokesman Kim Du-woo also said the two sides could hold preparatory discussions to set the agenda for a possible meeting between Lee and Sohn, and urged the opposition party to show "sincerity."
The remark was seen as meaning that the presidential office could accept the meeting proposal if the DP demonstrates that it is not trying to capitalize on such a meeting for political purposes.
If realized, a meeting between Lee and Sohn would mark the first of its kind in three years since September 2009 when
then-DP leader Chung Sey-kyun held talks with Lee at the presidential office.
Sohn said he wants to discuss the issue of college tuitions, job creation, home rental prices, labor disputes and the pending free trade agreement with the United States.
The trade pact, signed in 2007 and supplemented last December, has been awaiting approval from the legislatures of the two countries. The DP has been calling for a renegotiation of the deal, saying the pact favors the U.S.