[OUTLOOK]Let the Maneuvering and the Fun Begin

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[OUTLOOK]Let the Maneuvering and the Fun Begin

Early last week, I had a chance meeting with a leading opposition lawmaker who is one of the close confidants of Lee Hoi-chang, the leader of the opposition Grand National Party. During our conversation, he provided me with an interesting piece of information.

A few days ago, he said, Kim Yoon-hwan, the leader of the two-seat Democratic People's Party, reportedly met President Kim Dae-jung. At the meeting, Mr. Kim delivered a message to the president from Kim Jong-pil; the United Liberal Democrat leader expressed regret over the collapse of the ruling coalition and groped for the possibility of restoring ties.

The next day, I met Kim Yoon-hwan, the man who allegedly carried the message to the president.

"I heard you met President Kim Dae-jung some days back. Is that right?"

"No, I did not," he said loudly and firmly. I relayed the story that I had heard the day before, and mentioned that the information and the background of his meeting with the president had already been acknowledged by the opposition Grand National Party. His denial, I told him, did not seem plausible. Then he began to talk.

He had indeed met the president, he said. It was also true that the president heard him out on the possible restoration of the ruling coalition with the ULD. The president, he said, had responded positively. Yet, he denied having met Kim Jong-pil of the ULD recently.

"Then did you have any indirect contact with Kim Jong-pil before the meeting?" I asked.

"A few days ago, Mr. Kim sent a man," he said.

"Then you must have known what Kim Jong-pil was thinking," I said.

He wondered how the Grand National Party found out about the meeting.

"The Grand National Party reportedly heard about the meeting from an important figure of the ruling party," I said.

"Why did the ruling party inform the Grand National Party?" he asked.

"The ruling party was trying to stop the Grand National Party and the United Liberal Democrats from approaching each other," I suggested. "By the way, how did you come to play such a role?," I inquired.

That question triggered a long soliloquy about his role and his vision for Korean politics. As I listened to him, I realized that he had not met the president just once. Moreover, he had shared political ideas not only with Kim Jong-pil and Kim Young-sam, but also with other influential members of the Millennium Democratic Party. He had also held serious talks with Grand National Party members.

Seemingly as if he were happy with the attention I was paying to the leader of a minor, two-seat party, he drew for me a picture of his own. The reorganization of the political world was the theme of his vision of the future.

His idea is that politics will begin to polarize around supporters of Lee Hoi-chang and his opponents. Mr. Kim's primary goal, he said, was to build an anti-Lee Hoi-chang faction. That is why he was trying to bind the three Kims together again. With no further hesitation, he outlined how he intended to do so.

Because his plans were so intriguing, it is likely that President Kim Dae-jung and former president Kim Young-sam were seduced by them. Kim Jong-pil is no exception. My interlocutor presented some circumstantial evidence of that interest, and I slowly began to understand why the president had met him.

This seemed to be the time to ask a question I was deeply interested in.

"Aren't you the one who made Lee Hoi-chang the presidential candidate of the Grand National Party? Wasn't that why you became uncomfortable with Kim Young-sam? How did you end up with this minor political role?"

"Mr. Lee drove me out of the Grand National Party," he said, confirming the reaction of former president Kim Young-sam to the same question.

It is not clear if Kim Yoon-hwan's plans will mature; some parts seemed a bit too wild to be practical. What is clear, though, is that a move to form an anti-Lee Hoi-chang bloc is under way.

Will it succeed? Will it fail? Time will tell, but it is sure to stir up Korean politics.


The writer is a staff writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Lee Youn-hong

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