[VIEWPOINT]New leader gives Uri Party hopeThe new Uri Party Chairman, Representative Kim Geun-tae, is a man of discipline. I asked him why he doesn’t have lunch with his fellow lawmakers often, although he is one of the Uri Party presidential hopefuls.
His answer was, “I will have lunch with them more often in the future.”
I further asked him whether he couldn’t do so because he didn’t have enough money. He answered, “Actually, that’s true.” He has raised so little money from supporters that he can not afford to pay the restaurant bills.
In the middle of the primary election for the presidential candidate of the Millennium Democratic Party in 2002, Mr. Kim confessed that he accepted political funds from Kwon Roh-kap, a political tycoon in those days, and he had to stand trial, although he was not convicted.
Mr. Kim is logical and honest. That’s the reason, his critics point out, that he lacks popularity. Although he has talent, he is always one step late.
That has to do with his personality of pursuing logical completion with perfection. He even tries to explain his emotions with logic.
There is a deep trough of emotion between Mr. Kim and President Roh Moo-hyun, and the distance between them does affect his actions, but Mr. Kim won't admit it.
Quite a long time ago, the relationship between the two started to become estranged. During the 2002 Millennium Democratic Party primary, Ryu Simin, current minister of health and welfare and a Roh Moo-hyun supporter, demanded Mr. Kim’s resignation because of his low popularity.
When Mr. Roh’s approval ratings went down to the bottom in autumn that year, Mr. Kim promoted a move to unify the candidacy of Mr. Roh with Chung Mong-joon.
President Roh, in turn, described Mr. Kim’s confession that he accepted money from Mr. Kwon as “a political gesture that was a laughing stock.”
Whenever such open rifts occurred, Mr. Kim referred to history or political philosophy instead of exploding angrily. As lawmakers know, the relationship between Mr. Kim and President Roh is often compared to the one between former Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Kim Young-sam. Mr. Kim Geun-tae had been, for some time, the most unwelcome person among the governing party lawmakers.
Mr. Kim is now at the helm of the Uri Party, which is on the brink of a shipwreck.
First of all, he has to change the direction of the ship. All the answers he needs are reflected in the election results.
More than 40 percent of the governing party supporters cast their ballots in support of the Grand National Party instead of the ruling Uri Party.
If voters who supported the progressives were disappointed in the current administration, they would have given their votes instead to the Democratic Labor Party. How could they support the Grand National Party?
The people who belong to the middle of the road sympathize with the principle of reform, but they have been disappointed by the ineffective policies of the government and have turned away from it.
If the Uri Party wants to follow the way the Democratic Labor Party went, then it won’t responsibly manage state affairs and will lose every election.
To the Uri Party lawmakers who try to maintain their personal popularity by speaking positively about the Democratic Labor Party, Mr. Kim must say, “Go to the Democratic Labor Party, if you believe those things.”
Mr. Kim was a leftist. People who support left-wing activists hate to be criticized by such words as “defector” or “revisionist.”
As soon as Mr. Kim emphasized economic policy to support the people’s livelihood and promoted “further economic growth,” those in the leftwing of the party criticized him, saying he was turning to the right.
The spokesman of the ruling party had to explain that the party is not turning to the right.
He added the party runs straight ahead, quickly. The spokesman’s comment made me worry because it could be interpreted as a sign that Mr. Kim was swayed by the criticism.
After the local elections, President Roh has been shouting that he will go his own way. He has even remarked, “It is dangerous to try to shake government policy with dogmatic logic.”
Although the Blue House denies it, the presidential remark is considered to be a warning to the governing party against its move to adopt a more pragmatic line.
If the party is afraid of separating from President Roh, the revival of the governing party will be difficult. It is no coincidence that Mr. Kim, who does not owe much politically to Mr. Roh, is in charge of the party.
Mr. Kim said, “I will not boast of having been a member of the democratization force. I won’t decorate my breast with that medal all the time.” When he met Lee Byung-wan, the presidential chief of staff, Mr. Kim said, “I felt the pain of the middle class and grassroots people.”
And he chose Lee Kye-ahn, former president of Hyundai Motor Co. and Hyundai Capital, as his chief secretary.
If Mr. Kim keeps up with thedetermination he ha shown recently, there will be hope for the governing party.
* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Du-woo