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GNP 'Thatcher' quits amid policy criticism

Dec 22,2001
A self-proclaimed advocate of deregulation in the mode of Margaret Thatcher, Representative Kim Mahn-je, the chief policymaker of the main opposition Grand National Party, resigned Friday over internal criticism of several of his policy positions.

Mr. Kim, the former chairman of POSCO, pushed relentlessly for cutting corporate taxes by 2 percentage points and further deregulation of the nation's conglomerates, which led him into constant conflict with fellow party members. As for his reasons for stepping down, Mr. Kim said, "I feel that I have reached a limit in carrying out party duties."

He clashed with other Grand Nationals over his position on the supplementary budget, extension of teacher's retirement and the nation's health care finances. "I want to take responsibility for the internal strife over these issues," he said.

Mr. Kim also took flak for forming the subcommittee to the National Assembly's special committee on budget and accounts, which reviews the coming year's budget, with the same number of Millennium Democrats and Grand Nationals. The chairmanship of the subcommittee was also given to the ruling Millennium Democratic Party.

The representative split with party leader Lee Hoi-chang on the issue of rice aid to North Korea and corporate taxes. Mr. Lee reportedly reprimanded him for "prematurely" bringing up the rice aide issue and moves to cut the corporate tax, which Mr. Lee initially deemed not viable.

Mr. Kim was also attacked by junior party members who criticized his policies and his team as an "old, tattered and conservative policy team." He countered the criticism, saying "If old and conservative means capitalistic, I will gladly accept it."

Mr. Kim's resignation will trigger a reshuffle within the Grand National Party, which political watchers will observe closely to see whether it will spur in-house competition for the party's presidential nomination similar to what is being played out within the Millennium Democratic Party.



by Lee Sang-il




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