[OUTLOOK]New Party, New Movement, Old Politics

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[OUTLOOK]New Party, New Movement, Old Politics

"There is a fresh group of politicians. It is time for them to come onto the stage. There is a basis for that." Those words are not from a reformer in President Kim's Millennium Democratic Party.

They were spoken by Representative Kim Deog-ryong, a vice-president of the Grand National Party, in reaction to the crisis within the governing party.

In such comments about a party other than his own, I thought Mr. Kim went too far. But he insisted there was no other way and that he would step forward.

"I'll work to save this country. You can also call it the 'New Wind Movement'."

He went on to explain. "The country is mired in a huge power struggle. At this rate, the situation after the presidential election next year will be even worse. Who would admit that he had lost? Would you be able to govern the country properly even if you win the election? Politicians will start fighting the day the election results are announced."

Mr. Kim said it was not important whether one belonged to the governing party or the opposition. He said people should think about the future of the country.

"Are you saying you would quit your party and create a new one?" I asked.

Well, he wiggled like a snake going over a wall. He never used the two vital words, "new party." He never mentioned quitting his party either. I wondered what the difference was between his idea and quitting his party.

He said people should look at the situation correctly. "The MDP is in tatters but there is a significant number of people who also hate the opposition. What they want is change."

Mr. Kim emphasized that politicians should heed those expectations, and that he would join forces with those who share his beliefs.

"It'll probably take the form of a grouping." Isn't a group of like-minded politicians called a political party? Nevertheless, he did not use the term "party."

"Isn't your idea a source of yet another power struggle?" I asked. He strongly denied that. "How is trying to reform bad things yet another power struggle?" he retorted.

I asked him about Representative Lee Bu-young, one of the GNP vice presidents who recently spoke of the need for a new party. Coincidentally, Mr. Kim and Mr. Lee are close friends.

"Have you discussed this with Mr. Lee?" I asked. He said he never heard anything directly from Mr. Lee but that his thoughts were along different lines than Mr. Lee's.

"I think Mr. Lee wants to form a new party even if it were a minor one. But I'm not interested in small, minor parties. The picture I'm drawing is a big one."

Mr. Kim sounded as if he was interested in the so-called anti-Lee Hoi-chang coalition. But he didn't say that explicitly, either. He disguised everything under the name of political reform, and aimed squarely at the private ownership of regionally based political parties. He said his own Grand National Party was one of them.

I took a stab at what he was really thinking. "Do you not want Lee Hoi-chang to become president?"

He answered as if he was waiting for that question. "It would be a good thing if he comes to power."

But he went on to say something else. "Power transitions in the past were meaningful in and of themselves since they were about ending military rule and a transfer of power. But now, a power transition itself is not very meaningful. It should be followed by a political reform. But you can't expect that from Lee Hoi-chang."

Mr. Kim said Mr. Lee had no other thought than becoming the president.

"Do lots of GNP lawmakers think that?" I asked. He said most are just thinking of collecting benefits if indeed Mr. Lee becomes the next president, without actively rooting for his election. I thought this answer could be interpreted various ways.

"Are you interested in a new party that Kim Young-sam and Kim Jong-pil may form together?" I asked.

"Let's not talk about that. Kim Young-sam said he will not be at the forefront of creating another party," he replied.

Kim Deog-ryong sounded as if he has long-standing plans, is prepared to implement them and knows how to do so. He was one of the most powerful politicians in Korea four years ago.

Politicians were engaged in power struggles back then just as they are now. What could have made Mr. Kim think about things that he hadn't thought of back then?


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

by Lee Youn-hong

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