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Parties exchange barbs amid opposition struggle

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

SEOUL, Aug. 9 (Yonhap) -- Rival political parties traded barbs Friday as the opposition rallied support for an all-out street protest against the ruling party and the government.

Last week, the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) set up camp at a square in front of Seoul city hall in protest of what it claimed was the ruling Saenuri Party's attempt to sabotage a parliamentary investigation into the state spy agency's alleged meddling in last year's presidential election.

The probe aims to uncover the truth behind allegations that the National Intelligence Service (NIS) conducted an online smear campaign to sway public opinion in favor of the ruling party ahead of December's election.

The rival parties have wrangled over various terms of the probe, but this week they reached agreement on many of the disputed issues, including a list of witnesses and an extension of the investigation until Aug. 23.

Still, the opposition party plans to hold a mass rally on Saturday calling for a reform of the NIS and an apology from President Park Geun-hye over the spy agency scandal.

Moreover, the DP plans to join a downtown candlelight vigil organized by anti-government civic groups.

"The fact that the DP is intensifying its protest and planning to join the candlelight vigil despite the normalization of the parliamentary investigation is tantamount to admitting that it has other political intentions," Rep. Choi Kyoung-hwan, the floor leader of the ruling party, said at a party meeting.

"The DP no longer has an excuse to stage an outdoor protest," Rep. Hong Moon-jong, the ruling party's secretary general, said. "If they issue a mobilization order and take part in the candlelight vigil, they will face a backlash from the public."

Ruling camp officials have said they believe the DP is continuing its protest under pressure from the hard-line mainstream faction that wants to challenge the legitimacy of last year's presidential election.

The opposition party stepped up its calls for greater participation in Saturday's rally.

"We hope to see active participation from the many people who love and care for their country," Rep. Kim Han-gil, the DP chairman, said at a Supreme Council meeting.

"The Saenuri Party should stop obstructing efforts to determine the truth behind the NIS' interference in the presidential election," Rep. Jun Byung-hun, the DP floor leader, said.

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