[EDITORIALS]GNP rats and rants

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[EDITORIALS]GNP rats and rants

The Grand National Party is sinking deeper into turmoil. The latest cause celebre is a comment by the opposition party's vice president, Ha Soon-bong. At a regional party convention, Mr. Ha likened the party's nonmainstream factions to a pack of rats scurrying around a ship. That did not sit well with legislators who are demanding a more democratic party. The party seems to be losing its bearings.

Mr. Ha is one of the three core aides of Lee Hoi-chang, the party leader. That makes him a target of the factions that favor more democracy in the party. At a time when the party needs some damage control because of its internal turmoil, Mr. Ha's remark shows how contemptuously complacent he is. The comment gives credibility to criticism that the Grand National Party is not aware of what the public really wants from politicians and the GNP. The mainstream faction has, for example, glossed over the controversy triggered by news that Mr. Lee was occupying a luxurious apartment.

Mr. Ha made the comment while speaking in an official capacity at the party's regional meeting to pick its candidate for governor of Gangwon province. One critic sniffed that Mr. Ha's comment demonstrates the poor intellectual capacity of the opposition party as a whole. Perhaps that's not far from the mark; the comment is more worthy of someone half-sloshed at a local bar.

The opposition party deserves criticism for its infighting. The ruling Millennium Democratic Party has reawakened the public's interest in politics, and more people are watching the GNP's affairs. Internal challenges are boiling up in particular among the party's junior lawmakers, many of whom are launching a drive to revamp the party. Some of the mainstream party members are expected to join that campaign.

Mr. Ha has said his intentions were misunderstood, but the "rats" are not buying that. Lee Hoi-chang's cronies are dominating the party, and criticism will continue. Mr. Lee has stressed that he wants unity, but we are not sure he can get it if he fails to address issues that have come to the fore about his "imperial" reign. Those unanswered doubts will add to his burden as he seeks to become the next president.
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