[Outlook]Promises, promisesLee Hoi-chang announced his run for the presidency, saying that Lee Myung-bak, the Grand National Party’s candidate, has not earned the trust of the people and that his North Korea policy is a dangerous one. If he was more honest, his reason for the decision would be this: First, Lee Myung-bak’s camp became so sure of winning after it won the party’s primary that it treated Park Geun-hye’s camp badly and is attempting to dominate the right to appoint candidates in next year’s general election. Lee Hoi-chang must have figured out that he had a chance to win if he ran in the midst of the chaos consuming the GNP, whose members are on the verge of being sharply divided, and earn Park’s support.
Second, the BBK scandal seems suspicious. Kim Gyeong-jun’s testimony might turn out to be a deadly blow to Lee Myung-bak, who might have to pull out of the campaign. If Lee Myung-bak is disqualified, Lee Hoi-chang could be the one to take over from the incumbent administration. The senior politician must have seen this much.
After losing in the party primary, Park said she would provide Lee Myung-bak with unwavering support. But Lee Myung-bak was so happy with his high support rate that he did not reach out to Park. When the two met on Sept. 7 for the first time after the primary, Lee did not sincerely ask for Park’s support. Lee’s aides have said much that would obviously upset Park and her aides. The Lee camp’s mistreatment of Park was like an invitation to Lee Hoi-chang to run for the presidency.
As Park said, Lee Hoi-chang’s bid was not a righteous thing to do. Lee Hoi-chang is copying Rhee In-je, who did not earn the party’s nomination in the party primary in 1997 but ran for the presidency anyway. When Lee ran for the presidency in 1997, he criticized Kim Dae-jung for breaking an earlier promise to retire from politics and Rhee for not accepting the primary result and running for office. But now, Lee is taking exactly the same steps. He is the target of harsh criticism, which he expected and was prepared for. If votes for conservatives are divided and they fail to take over the administration, Lee Hoi-chang will be treated as an ugly duckling for the rest of his life.
But let’s look at the other side of the coin. For those who want a conservative administration, there are two good things about Lee Hoi-chang’s bid. First, it forces Lee Myung-bak to humble himself and try to earn Park’s support, which could stop the GNP from being divided. Even if Lee Myung-bak wins the election, members of his administration will show better manners if they win a tight battle rather than a sweeping victory.
People are worried about how arrogant Lee Myung-bak’s people will become if they win the election, based on their behavior after only winning the primary. Second, Lee Hoi-chang can serve as a spare tire for the election. Lee Myung-bak says he has nothing to do with the BBK scandal, but his supporters are still insecure. What if the election becomes a duel between Lee Myung-bak and a single candidate from the ruling party’s circle and Lee is disqualified?
The situation reminds me of the movie “High Noon” starring Gary Cooper. It takes place in Hedleyville, a small town in the American West, in 1870. Frank Miller, a gang leader, is set to arrive on the noon train to take revenge on Marshal Will Kane. Kane had arrested Miller and sent him to prison five years earlier. Kane is looking for people who will help him face the killer but nobody steps forward. With the clock in the town square ticking toward noon, tension builds to the extreme. For the past couple of days, the presidential candidates’ camps have been tense, waiting for Kim Gyeong-jun, just like Hedleyville in the movie. Kim was said to have boarded the plane from Los Angeles to Korea, but later it was revealed he didn’t.
The news built tension and then eased it. Kim is being repatriated as a suspect, not as a Frank Miller, but we were waiting to see whether his testimony would be a deadly shot or a stray bullet. With a situation that has turned out to be like High Noon, can Lee Myung-bak’s supporters really criticize Lee Hoi-chang’s bid?
Lee Myung-bak should be grateful for Lee Hoi-chang. If Lee Myung-bak wins an election Lee Hoi-chang didn’t join, the GNP would be divided and the new president and his aides would be extremely arrogant. Lee Hoi-chang taught Lee Myung-bak to be humble.
When announcing his bid for the presidency, Lee Hoi-chang said that he would withdraw from the election if his bid splits votes among conservatives so badly it could stop conservatives from taking over the administration. It would be a mistake to trust every word a politician says, but I hope that Lee Hoi-chang will keep his pledge for once in his life and prove his bid for the presidency is truly for a righteous cause.
*The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo. Translation by he JoongAng Daily staff.
by Kim Young-hie