[EDITORIALS]GNP's moment of truth

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[EDITORIALS]GNP's moment of truth

The opposition Grand National Party is agonizing over the issue of having a separate party leadership and presidential candidate, contrasting with the ruling Millennium Democratic Party's milestone decision to launch a political experiment for promoting democracy within its ranks. That is because the GNP mainstream group, led by the party leader Lee Hoi-chang, is unhappy with the argument by nonmainstreamers who are pushing the separation, insisting that the priority be on taking power first.

The core of the controversy lies in how and when to reform the country's political culture of "imperial presidency and party leadership," under which the boss holds all power. Non-mainstream factions argue that the party must be reformed to regain the power it lost in the 1997 presidential election; the mainstream faction claims taking power by solidifying its unity is more important than reforming the party. The mainstreamers seemingly want to separate the issues of this year's presidential election and party reform. They also appear concerned that the split will dent Mr. Lee's popularity.

Still, splitting the presidential election from party reform goes against public opinion. A new era demands a new leadership for the management of the country, ditching the old practice of boss politics led by the so-called "Three Kims" - Kim Dae-jung, Kim Young-sam and Kim Jong-pil. The task has been set by the public as an essential part of political reform that goes beyond a party's election strategy.

The belief within the GNP's mainstream that a democratic leadership would hurt unity is an anachronism. The governing Millennium Democratic Party's decision to hold primaries to nominate its presidential candidate is part of its efforts to reverse the trend to go against Mr. Lee, who has the edge over other presidential hopefuls in opinion polls. This attracts our attention as part of political reforms. The Grand National Party should begin intraparty discussions about party reforms in earnest, as most Koreans are expecting open and lively debates.
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