[OUTLOOK]Opposition Choices: Stability or Uproar

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[OUTLOOK]Opposition Choices: Stability or Uproar

"I don't really like what Chang is doing these days," Choe Byung-yul, the vice president of the Grand National Party, told me when I visited him recently. He was referring to the Grand National Party leader, Lee Hoi-chang. That was the least of his criticism of his boss so I asked, "May I quote you on that?" "That would be fine," Mr. Choe said. Mr. Choe seemed very, very angry.

"In politics, as long as someone is not one's biggest enemy, he must be embraced," Mr. Choe said. "So why would Mr. Lee not want to cooperate with Kim Jong-pil? What does he plan to do?" Kim Jong-pil heads the small United Liberal Democrats, which are close to being the swing bloc in the Assembly.

Mr. Choe thought Mr. Lee and Kim Jong-pil should collaborate to fight against Kim Dae-jung; former president Kim Young-sam would have no choice but to join that coalition.

In a word, Mr. Choe wants to keep firm the current situation in which the opposition parties have the upper hand over the ruling Millennium Democratic Party. Mr. Choe sees cooperation between his party and Kim Jong-pil of the United Liberal Democrats as vital to form an anti-Kim Dae-jung coalition.

I saw Mr. Lee a few days before I visited Mr. Choe. At that time, Mr. Lee already knew how serious the opposition from lawmakers surrounding Mr. Choe from North and South Kyongsang provinces had become. Mr. Lee knew exactly why there was such opposition and what the lawmakers demanded. Mr. Lee was looking for another way of resolving the problems, however.

First of all, he said, the biggest problem with cooperating with JP, as Kim Jong-pil is known, was how to justify it. Mr. Lee's political slogan is to end the era of the three Kims - Kim Dae-jung, Kim Young-sam and Kim Jong-pil. Therefore, it would be inappropriate to join forces with one of the men he wants to remove from the political scene.

Second is a matter of trust. Even if Mr. Lee teamed up with JP, the partnership would not last long, he said. "It is difficult to trust JP," he added.

So, Mr. Lee came to the conclusion that he would selectively cooperate either with JP or the president when appropriate. He mentioned cooperation with Kim Dae-jung on issues related to people's livelihood and welfare. In this way, Mr. Lee thought that he could take the political lead. The goal of keeping political leadership was the same for Mr. Lee and his deputy, Mr. Choe, but they were walking different paths. I explained to Mr. Choe about Mr. Lee's ideas. Mr. Choe said it would be natural to help the government in public welfare and that he is not opposed to it.

"But if Mr. Lee thinks that the president will not bite him in return for his help, that is a departure from the opposition's usual stance," Mr. Choe said, adding that Mr. Lee should not even think about breaking up the United Liberal Democrats. "We should let the United Liberal Democrats voice their opinions as ultra-rightists. This will benefit the Grand National Party."

I asked Lee Hoi-chang's supporters about those comments.

"Mr. Choe does not understand Mr. Lee's leadership. The leadership in Mr. Lee's mind is not to stir up controversy in politics to take the political lead. That is the three Kims' style. Mr. Lee's idea of leadership is based on stability," said one supporter, even though he conceded that the recent spate of scandals, including the Lee Yong-ho financial and bribery scandal, demanded some tough talk. Nevertheless, this Lee supporter said, the offensive tactics would be temporary and limited in scope, and the basic theme would not change.

All the things said make some sense. They all have strong reasons and internal logic. But everyone is concealing something important. Of course these are matters of self-interest and therefore emotional issues. So one side refuses to listen and the other side attempts to push ahead with its agenda.

Political prediction is a very uncertain business, and there is no way yet to say who is right and who is wrong in their predictions of the best political tactics to achieve their aims. It will be interesting to watch things unfold.


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

by Lee Youn-hong

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