Lee Han-dong Changes His Political Tune

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Lee Han-dong Changes His Political Tune

"There will be no mutual cooperation with the ruling Millennium Democratic Party (MDP). This is not a temporary tactic designed to get more votes in the parliamentary elections. I am willing to lead an opposition party." Prime minister-designate and United Liberal Democrat (ULD) head Lee Han-dong said this on Feburary 24 when the nation was in the grips of election fever.

On May 22, however, Lee changed his tune; it is no coincidence that Lee was nominated to become the next Korean prime minister that day. "What I said (in February) was rather extreme. It is more rational and beneficial to cooperate with other parties." Lee went on to downplay his party's campaign slogan, 'Counter Mutual Cooperation.' Lee's change of heart seems to indicate that he is now in favor of 'grand justice,' rather than 'minor justice,' and is interested in facilitating 'effective national government.'

The ULD chief's new stance on mutual assistance is causing much confusion. Voters who considered the matter of mutual assistance between the MDP and ULD as a key factor in their decision on election day (April 13) are confused and even vexed by Lee's change of tune. Equally contentious is ULD Honorary Chairman Kim Jong-pil's alleged decision to recommend Lee for the position of prime minister. Lee insists that "ULD Honorary Chairman Kim Jong-pil has clearly expressed his decision to recommend me for the post."

These comments stand in stark contrast to secretary general Kang Chang-hee's harsh denouncement of the nomination. Kang insists that Kim Jong-pil displayed only 'implied agreement.' Kang met Kim on the morning of May 22 in Seogwipo, Cheju Island and allegedly stated that "implied agreement (to Lee becoming prime minister) and mutual assistance are two very different things."

The differences between 'explicit recommendation,' 'implied agreement,' and 'mutual assistance' are confusing even for ULD insiders. One alarmed and annoyed citizen called one newspaper company and pointed out that, "Previous prime minister Park Tae-jun resigned because he was found to be immoral ... The morality of politicians can only be verified when they stop breaking their promises to voters."

Lee stated that the new prime minister of Korea will be confronted with very crucial issues, particularly the upcoming June summit talks. Economic restructuring is another important issue that needs to be resolved. Transparency and trust are absolutely necessary if these issues are to be dealt with successfully.

Last December Lee resigned from his previous party, the Grand National Party (GNP), saying, "The GNP and MDP do not have their own political identities." He also said, "I am leaving the GNP because I want to become involved in a political party with a personality. I am not a 'carpet bagger.'"

It must not be forgotten, however, that unique political color or personality must be backed by coherence and consistency.

by Choi Sang-yon

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