President Lee’s party affiliationThe ruling Grand National Party is in disarray over President Lee Myung-bak’s party affiliation. Representative Kim Chong-in, a member of the GNP’s emergency leadership council, suggested during a debate that the president should leave the party, upsetting the pro-president faction. Kim said the president should decide what is right for the party to help sustain governing power after his term ends. Members loyal to the president immediately demanded the dismissal of Kim. Representative Lee Jae-oh, one of the party’s eldest members, accused Kim of attempting to kick out the “father of the house.” Some extremists have even demanded that Kim escort Representative Park Geun-hye, head of the emergency council and the president’s contender in the last presidential race, as they both leave the ruling party.
Attempts to cut ties with an unpopular president have been routine during the final year of the term ahead of a presidential election. Former presidents Roh Tae-woo, Kim Young-sam, Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun all left their party in their final year. They were in fact pushed out amid scandals of shady financial deals with business leaders, corruption involving families or relatives or incompetency in governance. President Lee finds himself in a similar spot. He sits in the eye of the storm with his family and relatives associated with various scandals. Public consensus has turned against him after the president and his wife tried to buy an enormous plot of land in a neighborhood in southern Seoul as a post-retirement residence under their son’s name. For the ruling party, the president weighs down their chance of winning the legislative election in April.
But to outright demand the president leave does not bode well for the party. The president was elected as the GNP candidate to run in the 2007 presidential race. He won the presidency based on individual and party visions and platforms. If the government has lost public confidence, the blame should lie on the party as much as the president. It cannot hide away from its responsibility and flaws just by severing ties with Lee.
The problem has not been discussed during the emergency council meeting. Representative Park said the party won’t seek to distance itself from the president. The pro-Lee forces should calm down. Attacks against the emergency council may look as if members under suspicion of receiving bribes from National Assembly Speaker Park Hee-tae were using the opportunity to water down the controversy.