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Resignation Threats Put Pressure on Kim For a Party Shakeup

Nov 01,2001
Reformers in the ruling party's top posts are moving to resign. Providing the lead on Thursday was Representative Chung Dong-young, an elected member of the Millennium Democratic Party's Supreme Council and a vocal leader of its reformist bloc.

"I keenly acknowledge my part in the loss of public support for our party," Mr. Chung said, referring to by-election losses Oct. 25. "I will formally hand in my resignation after telling President Kim Dae-jung everything at Saturday's meeting."

While they did not offer clear-cut resignations, Representatives Hahn Hwa-kap and Kim Keun-tae, who are also elected members of the ruling party's top decision-making apparatus, signaled that they might follow the popular second-term lawmaker.

"I will decide on my future course after the Saturday meeting," said Mr. Hahn.

"I will take my part of due responsibility," said Mr. Kim.

Following a weeklong internal dispute, President Kim Dae-jung and his party's Supreme Council members will meet Saturday to discuss the reasons for the defeat and to call into account those responsible. The discontent among members of the Supreme Council is likely to push President Kim Dae-jung to take decisive measures soon. Insiders said that he may shake up the party in mid-November. He is also being asked to devise a strategy to woo the disaffected public as the nation heads into a heavy political year. Elections for local assemblies and offices are set for June, with the presidential election to follow in December. On Thursday, the president finally spoke out on the current dissension.

"We need to jointly take responsibility for the defeat at the Oct. 25 by-elections," he said. "I will take the party turmoil as a chance to turn a new leaf."

Blue House aides said that the president would call in 20 Millennium Democrats, at a time, to collect their opinions after the Saturday meeting. He is also expected to try to persuade them to close ranks behind party leadership in the run-up to next year's elections.

Mr. Chung and Mr. Kim, both presidential hopefuls, are at the forefront of the in-house calls for reform led by the party's Young Turks. Senior party members, as well as Donggyo-dong faction members such as Mr. Hahn, have joined in the calls. But core Donggyo-dong Old Guards are refusing to change a leadership that only came to power Sept. 10.

Political watchers forecast that the president would not give up the party presidency or fire Park Jie-won, the senior secretary for policy and planning, or his right-hand man, Kwon Roh-kap. They said that the president is hemmed in by a limited talent pool and the need to retain his grip over the domestic political terrain.

by Kim Chong-hyuk




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