[OUTLOOK]Kim's Plan: To Rise Like a Phoenix?

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[OUTLOOK]Kim's Plan: To Rise Like a Phoenix?

It has been 10 days since President Kim resigned as the president of the Millennium Democratic Party. Yet even to this day no one can figure out what actually went through his mind.

People said a lot of things about his resignation, including that he resigned "in order to devote himself entirely to state affairs."

That sounds superficial to the general public. In order to find out what his hidden intentions were, I met several people who might know more than what appeared in the papers. One person recommended that I meet with Jang Sung-min of the Millennium Democratic Party.

Mr. Jang is a strategist in the Donggyo-dong faction, a group of politicians that is loyal to President Kim.

According to Mr. Jang, the President's interest now lies not in partisanship but in the survival of the country. And President Kim's answer to who the next president will be also lies there. He added that the president is looking for a national leader and a person who will get the nation back on track.

"The President has resigned as the head of a faction and a party. He wants the presidential hopefuls to do the same, no matter what party they belong to," Mr. Jang said.

My next stop was at the office of Ha Soon-bong, vice president of the opposition Grand National Party, who also has good contacts in the Millennium Democrats and the Blue House. He said he had heard the same explanation from a close aide of the president, and added more details.

"I heard that President Kim wants to be remembered as a successful president. He wants to be evaluated based on his historic achievements: the North-South summit and the Nobel Peace Prize," Mr. Ha said. The president believes the outcome of next year's election will be important for evaluating the president's achievements, he added. "He has chosen nonpartisanship, so that he can preserve his successful achievements, distancing himself from the political aftermath if his party is defeated in the presidential election next year."

Thus came about his resignation from the party presidency, and the Grand National Party is just monitoring the situation for now, according to Mr. Ha. It seems that a lot of words have been exchanged between the two parties.

Mr. Ha claims that a reliable Millennium Democratic Party source told him that the president prefers to retire from politics rather than to work for his party in next year's presidential election.

I suddenly remembered what Hahn Hwa-Kap, a Millennium Democratic Party leader, once said about the "root theory."

The root theory holds that a politician from the Donggyo-dong faction, the loyal followers of President Kim, should be one of the candidates for the presidency next year. Mr. Hahn is suggesting that if the Millennium Democratic Party supported Rhee In-je, who is not personally loyal to the president, it would be no different than passing the baton to the Grand National Party. For that reason Mr. Hahn volunteered to run for president next year.

I asked Mr. Ha if he believed what his Blue House source had said; he answered that he does believe those are the president's true intentions - for the moment. But he also added that there is a possibility that President Kim would change his mind.

"It would be irresistible for him if a shake-up takes place in political circles. I am referring to the anti-Lee Hoi-chang alliance. President Kim may make his final decision whether he will join the alliance or not after examining the situation," Mr. Ha said.

I then went to see Kim Yoon-whan, Democratic People's Party representative, who is trying to initiate a shake-up in political circles.

Mr. Kim backed Mr. Ha's point of view, saying the president had no other choice than to shake up the existing parties and support a candidate from the Gyeongsang provinces.

To me, all this seems as if President Kim is trying to get control of two different agendas simultaneously.

First he seems to be waiting for the outcome of the shake-up of the political parties; then, if things turn out as he expects, he will support the anti Lee Hoi-chang alliance. If the shake-up does not go as he expected, he will just let go of everything and try to preserve his past achievements.

It seems as though the main reason for his recent resignation is to expand his options. For the president the resignation can be used as a preparation for his next move after his term expires.


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The writer is a staff writer on political affairs of the JoongAng ilbo.

by Lee Youn-hong

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