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GNP battling to define itself after election loss

Dec 24,2002
The Grand National Party is struggling to determine its future after last week's defeat in the presidential election.

The party failed to reach a conclusion yesterday during a series of meetings of its Supreme Council, elected representatives and local chapter heads held at party headquarters in Yeouido. Letters of resignation submitted by key party executives, including Suh Chung-won, the party chairman, after the election defeat Thursday of Lee Hoi-chang, were not accepted by the Supreme Council. But council members Kang Chang-hee and Kang Jae-sup quit the leadership panel.

Mr. Suh, after agreeing to stay in his post, said yesterday that the party should start with a clean slate. He proposed organizing a reform committee that embraces young GNP lawmakers and party outsiders.

But Kang Jae-sup said it is contradictory for the current party system to remain intact in the wake of Mr. Lee's resignation from politics. He called for the immediate resignation of the party leadership. Kim Jin-jae, another Supreme Council member, agreed, saying no one should cling to their position if the party is to start fresh.

Later that day the party's elected representatives reportedly agreed at a closed-door meeting to organize a reform body. But they could not agree on when the current party leaders should step down. Some members called for an immediate reshuffle, but others said the current leadership should resign after a new group of leaders is organized. The size and makeup of the reform committee is still up in the air, a party spokesman said after the meeting.

Representative Kim Hong-shin said yesterday that the party must change itself more completely than the Millennium Democratic Party, which won the election. The MDP carried out a series of reforms earlier this year. He said those who turned Lee Hoi-chang into a symbol of "old politics," must relinquish their leadership positions.

Mr. Lee yesterday rejected the party's request to give a farewell address. "My presence may affect the party as it seeks a new path," he said.

by Ko Jung-ae




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