By Do Je-hae
The Democratic Party (DP) and other opposition parties were seemingly heading toward an all-out confrontation with the Lee Myung-bak administration Tuesday, on the eve of the anniversary of the 1987 pro-democracy movement.
The main opposition DP plans to participate in a mass rally organized by progressive civic groups, scholars and religious leaders to mark the anti-government demonstration against the authoritarian Chun Doo-hwan government at Seoul Plaza in front of City Hall. The movement consequently forced Chun to declare on June 29 the same year the introduction of a direct presidential election system.
Minor opposition parties including the centrist Creative Korea and left-wing Democratic Labor and New Progressive parties will join the DP in the rally despite a ban on what is perceived as an anti-government demonstration.
The administration said it will use police to contain possible clashes with protestors, and prohibited the use of the plaza as a place of assembly.
DP Chairman Chung Sye-kyun urged the Lee administration to refrain from limiting public access to the plaza, which he called a ``symbol of communication with the people'' due to its association with massive protests in recent years.
``We will adhere to the principle of the assembly of peace and non-violence,'' Chung said in a statement, stressing that today's rally is a ``demonstration of Koreans' ardent wish for democracy, peace and people's livelihood.''
Some members of the DP lodged a protest with Prime Minister Han Seung-soo during a visit to his office, urging the government to approve the use of the plaza for the rally.
They also warned in a joint statement that disregarding the public's call to open Seoul Plaza at all times and uphold the freedom of assembly will be met with ``serious consequences.''
The DP perceives a vigorous participation in the rally as a tool to gain leverage in its confrontation with the governing Grand National Party (GNP) regarding the opening of a National Assembly session, originally scheduled for June 1.
Some of the most controversial bills, including cross-media ownership bills, are pressing items for the upcoming session.
``We will not prolong anti-government demonstration outside the National Assembly this month and abandon our responsibilities as lawmakers,'' said DP floor leader Rep. Lee Kang-rae during a debate organized by the Kwanhun Club, a fraternity of senior journalists. The event was held at the Press Center in Seoul.
He was apparently referring to some concerns within and outside the party that the DP's active participation in the rally may signal extended displays of anti-government activities.
``The DP should join the GNP in the Assembly session as soon as possible and discuss pending issues there,'' said GNP floor leader Ahn Sang-soo during the Kwanhun debate.
The session has been delayed since the death of former President Roh Moo-hyun May 23. He was being investigated in a corruption case.
The DP has made it clear that resuming a normal parliamentary schedule is not possible unless the GNP and the Lee administration takes responsibility for what they call a politically-charged investigation of Roh. It has seen a surge in public support in recent weeks.