New GNP leader: ‘First mission is to end factionalism’

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New GNP leader: ‘First mission is to end factionalism’

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GNP chairman Hong Joon-pyo, right, presides over a meeting with senior GNP lawmakers yesterday at the GNP headquarters in Yeouido, Seoul. [YONHAP]

Only days after his election, Grand National Party’s new chairman Hong Joon-pyo has stirred the political arena with his ambitious reform tasks and policy direction. Nicknamed a political “rugby ball” among lawmakers, Hong’s plans to overhaul the GNP’s nomination process for next year’s elections and to redefine the ruling party’s relationship with the Blue House have already prompted controversy. The conservative policy direction that Hong will choose in the months ahead of the crucial election year is also expected to see some conflicts with reformist lawmakers who have made more liberal pledges.


ENDING FACTIONALISM AND REFORMING THE NOMINATION PROCESS:

After his victory on Monday, Hong’s first official activity as the ruling party chairman was visiting the National Cemetery. Before paying respect, Hong addressed the newly elected Supreme Council members and stressed his intention to end the GNP’s deeply rooted factionalism.

“Politicians who will continue factionalist activities won’t be given a nomination [for the April legislative elections of next year],” Hong said. “That’s what the people want, and that is the key task. It is our first mission to end the factionalism.”

While Hong has kept his distance from the GNP’s two major factions, the ruling party has been largely divided between the Lee Myung-bak faction and Park Geun-hye faction. Throughout Lee’s presidency, the split has often derailed the administration’s major agendas.

Hong’s plan, however, was not warmly received by Yoo Seong-min, the runner-up of the GNP chairmanship race. Yoo, a member of the new Supreme Council and a key leader of the pro-Park faction, made clear he does not agree with Hong’s idea.

“I cannot agree with the plan of putting politicians at a disadvantage for working for their factions,” Yoo said. “If so, that means I should not be nominated.”

Yoo also said the factional chasm is not something to be mended forcibly. “The reconciliation between the pro-Lee and pro-Park should be done by themselves,” he said.

While Na Kyung-won and Nam Kyung-pil, the new members of the Supreme Council, fundamentally agree with Hong’s idea of eradicating factionalism in the GNP, some other leaders disagree.

“You cannot forcibly coerce the lawmakers to stay out of the factions,” said Chung Mong-joon, former chairman of the GNP. “We must think about why the factions were created and think about how to change the situation.”


REDEFINING RELATIONSHIP WITH THE BLUE HOUSE:

Another task declared by Hong will be redefining the ruling party’s relationship with the Blue House.

“It is not really a consultation when the Blue House and the administration just present their plans and unilaterally demand the party’s support,” Hong said in an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo on Tuesday. “The GNP will no longer work as the rubber-stamp machine.”

Hong said the three-way conference of the Blue House, administration and the GNP must be changed to become more efficient. “At the beginning of Lee’s term, the party showed ultimate support for him because he was pushing forward reform,” Hong said. “But at the end of his term, it’s the opposite. The party’s opinions must be strongly reflected on the decisions of the Blue House and the government.”

Hong also said all the past presidents failed to realize that they were in the lame duck period even one month before their terms ended. “When the time comes, a flower falls from a tree,” he said. “That’s the provision of nature.”

Hong also attacked Lee’s aides for working for their private gain. “Lee’s aides are not political comrades,” Hong said. “They are more partners. They are ready to leave when their personal goals are satisfied. They are irresponsible and they don’t work hard.”

And the new GNP chairman appeared to have already taken his first step to tame the Blue House. When Kim Hyo-jae, senior presidential secretary for political affairs, visited Hong to congratulate him on his victory and tried to schedule the meeting with the Blue House and administration leaders, Hong did not confirm a date immediately. “I will consult with other Supreme Council members and fix the date,” Hong said.


DIRECTION OF THE GNP’S WORKING CLASS-FRIENDLY POLICY:

Another task for Hong is deciding the party’s policy direction by uniting the lawmakers’ ideas while seeking harmony with the administration.

After the bitter April by-election defeat, the conservative Grand National Party largely leaned to the left and a series of more liberal welfare pledges has been presented by its lawmakers, including new floor leader Hwang Woo-yea.

Hong, however, remained less liberal, warning against making promises that do not take into account the government’s financial capability. Throughout his campaign, Hong stressed the working-class friendly policy, asking the GNP to engage in “right wing populism.”

“The right wing populism is good populism because feasible policies will be promised and implemented,” Hong told the JoongAng Ilbo. “Deceiving the public by promising to give everything free, without thinking about the state budget, is bad populism of the left wing.”

After his election, Hong declared his ambition to make the Grand National Party a “true conservative party.”

In his interview with the JoongAng Ilbo, Hong defined true conservatism as “giving more freedom to the haves, while asking them for heavier responsibility, and giving more opportunities to the have-nots, while ending their practice of asking for the impossible.”

While the GNP leadership sees the working class-friendly policy as its top priority, the leaders have different opinions about the specifics. The plan to cut tuition and the possibility of ending the corporate tax cut are the most hotly debated issues.

Hong has promoted a less aggressive tuition cut program, saying the amount of reduction should be different based on income levels. The GNP floor leader Hwang, however, has pushed forward a more aggressive cut, promoting a 30 percent cut by 2014.

The additional tax cut plan is also another sensitive issue. While the GNP leaders generally agree with an additional income tax cut, Hong has argued that small companies - not conglomerates - should be given additional corporate tax cuts. Hwang and other reformists have said the government must withdraw additional corporate tax cuts.

Ratification of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement is also an issue that Hong and Hwang differ over.

Hong has also said the FTA must be ratified as soon as possible, arguing that the ruling party should not hesitate to use its majority to approve the bill before the U.S. Congress. Hwang, in contrast, has said agreeing with the opposition parties on the approval is more important.


By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [연합]
與 새 지도부 첫날부터 `계파배제` 신경전
홍준표 `계파활동시 공천 배제` 유승민 `계파활동 공천불이익 사유 안돼`
7ㆍ4 전당대회를 통해 탄생한 한나라당 새 지도부가 업무 시작 첫날부터 `계파 배제`를 놓고 신경전을 벌여 논란을 예고했다.

홍준표 대표는 5일 오전 흑석동 국립현충원 참배에 앞서 최고위원들과 가진 약식 간담회에서 "앞으로 계파 활동을 하면 (내년 총선에서) 공천을 안 줄 것"이라며 "오늘 최고위원회의에서 계파 해체 결의부터 해야 할 것"이라고 말했다.

나경원 최고위원은 "계파 해체(평가)는 친이(친이명박)계 오더가 덜 먹혔다는 것이고, 계파 강화는 친박(친박근혜)계가 결집했다는 것"이라고 말했다.

이에 대해 전대에서 친박계의 `결집`에 힘입어 2위를 한 유승민 최고위원은 기자들과 만나 "친이, 친박 활동한다고 공천에 불이익을 준다는 데 동의할 수 없다"면서 "그러면 나부터 공천이 안돼야 한다"고 반박했다.


유 최고위원은 "친이-친박 화해는 당사자들이 하는 것"이라고 덧붙였다.

계파 문제는 여의도 당사에서 열린 첫 최고위원회의에서도 이어졌다.

나 최고위원은 "전대에서 계파가 엷어졌다는 평가와 짙어졌다는 평가가 교차한다. 무슨 의미인지 잘 알 것"이라며 "홍 대표도 계파 해체를 말했으니 함께 뜻을 모아 꼭 했으면 한다"고 강조했다.

남경필 최고위원도 "새 지도부가 계파 해체를 선언하고 이를 실제로 이행할 수 있는 방안에 대한 지혜를 짜내야 한다"고 공감했다.

이와 관련, 유 최고위원은 비공개 회의에서 홍 대표의 `공천 배제` 발언과 관련해 문제를 제기하면서 "계파를 해체하려면 계파해체 선언이 중요한 게 아니라 진정성 있는 노력이 중요하다"고 언급했고, 이에 대해 홍 대표는 "계파 활동에만 `전념`하는 사람은 그런 불이익 줄 수 있다고 했다"며 "오해하지 말라"고 말한 것으로 알려졌다.

한 친박계 초선 의원은 연합뉴스와의 통화에서 "홍 대표 발언은 공천 전부를 대표가 다 쥐고 있다는 오해를 국민에게 줄 우려가 있다"며 "홍 대표가 첫날부터 덧셈의 정치가 아닌 뺄셈의 정치를 한 것"이라고 비판했다.

다만 다른 친박계 의원은 "계파 갈등을 없애자는 차원의 얘기로 본다"며 홍 대표의 발언이 갈등으로 번지는 것을 경계했다.

이와 함께 최고위원회의에서는 친서민ㆍ민생 정책 추진을 둘러싼 미묘한 `신경전`이 이어졌다.

홍 대표는 이명박 대통령의 축하난 전달차 방문한 김효재 청와대 정무수석과 만나 "당청 충돌은 공멸"이라며 "임태희 대통령실장은 내가 원내대표 때 정책위의장이었고, 백용호 정책실장은 15년간 형, 동생했다. 정책 충돌이 없도록 하겠다"고 말했다.

나 최고위원도 "전대 과정에서 정책 변화에는 공감하지만 방법과 속도에 이견이 있었다"며 "합의를 봐가면서 (정책을) 만들어가자"고 `조율`을 강조했다.

그러나 황우여 원내대표는 "골목마다 쌓인 민생문제를 잘 해결하는데 매진해야 한다"고 강조했고, 남 최고위원도 "정책노선 변화는 불가피하며, 정부와 청와대를 당이 리드해야 한다"고 가세했다.

이주영 정책위의장은 인기몰이 중인 프로그램 `나는 가수다`를 언급, "안보와 성장이라는 보수 가치와 매력을 잘 유지하면서도 그늘을 보정할 친서민 정책으로 편곡만 잘하면 20~30대 젊은 세대도 열광할 수 있다"면서 "새로운 친서민 정책을 최고위원들과 잘 조율해 참보수의 길을 열겠다"고 말했다.

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