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Party Leader Backs 3-Way Merger

Aug 10,2001
A leader of the United Liberal Democrats suggested Friday a merger of the three ruling coalition parties, leaving open the possibility of Kim Jong-pil running for president as the combined party's candidate next year.

Mr. Kim is the honorary president of the ULD, and the only one of the "three Kims" who dominated the Korean political landscape recently who has not held the presidency.

"It is common knowledge that whether the three parties are merged or just allied, they will elect jointly," said Kim Chong-hoh, acting president of the United Liberal Democrats, referring to the selection of a candidate to run against the opposition Grand National Party.

In addition to the United Liberal Democrats, the ruling coalition consists of the Millennium Democratic Party and the Democratic People's Party.

The ULD acting head denied any knowledge of current merger plans, but said, "If the three parties merge and have JP run for presidency, he will win by a large margin." He was referring to Kim Jong-pil.

Just two days earlier Kim Jong-pil said in New York, "The next president should be a leader with extensive experience," which could include himself; he is part of South Korea's political old guard.

Chang Che-sik, minister of commerce, industry and energy, who defected from the Millennium Democratic Party to the United Liberal Democrats, told reporters on Monday, "I changed parties in anticipation of a merger."

"The three parties must merge and select a candidate jointly to win against opposition leader Lee Hoi-chang," Representative Kim Yoon-whan of the Democratic People's Party said on August 1.

Many people in the Millennium Democratic Party have suggested that Kim Jong-pil could be named president of the new, merged party.

But differences remain over whom to select as a presidential candidate. That question killed the creation of a new ruling party by the Millennium Democrats and United Liberal Democrats in July 1999.



by Chun Young-gi




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