The man caught in the middle

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The man caught in the middle

The call for reform is on the lips of many at the Grand National Party, but the ruling party is a far cry from moving in that direction largely because of its intransigent leadership. GNP Chairman Park Hee-tae is stuck in the middle of the tug-of-war between supporters of President Lee Myung-bak and former party head Park Geun-hye.

No reform can take off unless the stalemate is broken, but Park appears to be comfortable where he is. Park, a veteran politician in his 70s, has a penchant for reading the public and following the flow. He is not a person to be attached to the chairman’s seat. But he nevertheless appears as such because he is the man stuck between two warring factions, and, in a way, holds the balance of power.

Both power lineages that separately support President Lee and former party head Park need Chairman Park on their side.

Park, shortly after a devastating defeat in the April 29 by-election, visited President Lee, bowing deeply and saying he has no face to look at the president. President Lee has profound trust in Chairman Park who has been consistent in showing loyalty and faithfully reflecting the president’s will in party policy making. He may have been particularly touched by Park’s humility and self-sacrificing comment to shield the president from a barrage of pointed political complaints. Park has faithfully carried out his role of limiting a spread of mistrust.

At the same time, Park is a comfortable partner to former GNP chairwoman Park Geun-hye, as he poses little threat as a potential rival in the next presidential campaign and also because of his mild disposition.

Although Park Hee-tae remains faithful to President Lee, he is nevertheless much favored by the Park Geun-hye faction over former lawmaker Lee Jae-oh, a hard-core aide of President Lee. Former chairwoman Park once said Lee possessed “an extreme case of arrogance.”

The current party head may not be the optimum choice for the Park Geun-hye faction, but at the same time it’s not the worst.

Chairman Park therefore serves as both a functioning defender of President Lee and as a tolerable partner of Park Geun-hye.

His service to the contending factions has kept the precarious voyage of the ruling party on course. But under such an insecure and antagonistic structure, the ruling party cannot offer transparency, activity and responsibility.

It cannot be transparent because the seat does not reflect capabilities nor can it be fluid as all policies are vulnerable to wrangling.

Orders are secretly made, but few leaders take responsibility for them. Like a marriage on the rocks, a tense cohabitation eats away at the insides of the political organization. It’s an eyesore.

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