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Rhee Calls for Emergency Action

Seeks New Party Leadership, Riling Other Contenders

Nov 04,2001
Rhee In-je, a strong presidential hopeful backed by the ruling Millennium Democratic Party's dominant Donggyo-dong faction, called on the party to set up an emergency provisional party leadership Sunday and for President Kim Dae-jung to hold nominations for the party's presidential candidate in March or April next year.

"The Supreme Council has been the source of party dissension," Mr. Rhee said, speaking in Jeju Island. "With the sweeping resignations, the council has been dissolved and the party should now go on emergency leadership status."

Speaking from the Donggyo-dong camp, party Chairman Han Kwang-ok said, "The resignation of the 12 Supreme Council members is a political act. Until the president clarifies his stance, all the Supreme Council members and the top party leaders should be considered to be retaining their leadership."

Spokesmen for President Kim had indicated he would make an announcement on the resignations and party upheaval Saturday, but he did not. Because Mr. Rhee jumped the gun and made an announcement of his own, he was criticized by the other presidential hopefuls in the party, most notably Reps. Hahn Hwa-kap and Noh Mu-hyun. With these major players weighing in, the internal party turmoil has become a full-fledged competition among the presidential hopefuls.

Mr. Rhee, for the first time, put forth a political timetable, that is being interpreted by analysts as self-promoting. "If we do not nominate our party's presidential candidate by March or April next year," he said, "and drive to a win at the June local elections, there is no way that our party will retake the Blue House."

In response, Mr. Noh, speaking at the party's local chapter at Gwangju, blasted Mr. Rhee: "The presidential hopeful is attacking President Kim Dae-jung for his own political ambitions."

Mr. Hahn, speaking from Busan, said that "(Mr. Rhee's calls) do not help in resolving the current turmoil."

Political commentators have yet to make a decisive prediction as to where the current party turmoil will lead. Insiders say that much of the outcome lies with President Kim, who has yet to hint about what course he will take to revamp the ruling camp leadership and win next year's elections.

The prevailing prediction is that the president will present his plans when he returns from the Asean+3 summit being held in Brunei on Wednesday.



by Kim Chong-hyuk




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