Kim Seeks Upper Hand

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Kim Seeks Upper Hand

Having failed to reach a compromise with the opposition camp about how to tackle the current political standoff, President Kim Dae-jung is now expected to seize the initiative by appealing to the public. A second tactic will see him promoting an alliance that will give him the upper hand in polit-ical jostling for the rest of his five-year tenure. The Blue House said the president will hold a news conference Thurs-day with both the domes-tic and the foreign press.

During the press conference, Mr. Kim is expected to push his plans for reviving the moribund econ-omy and achieving national harmony, both now elusive goals because of the protracted political turmoil. The national scene has been conflict-ridden for three reasons, including the prosecution's investi-gation into how and why Korea's spy agency's funds were allegedly channeled to the former rul-ing party, now the opposition in the legislature.
Second, cooperation is now reviving between Mr. Kim's Millennium Democratic Party and the small United Liberal Democrats. On Monday, Mr. Kim will meet with Honorary President Kim Jong-pil of the United Liberal Democrats at the Blue House to cement the alliance. At Monday's meeting, the two Kims are also expected to discuss ways of seizing the initiative in the political arena. Ruling camp insiders said that the pair believe that if the opposition can keep attacking them over the faltering economy, their ability to lead during the second half of the presi-dent's tenure will be much diminished. Finally, the recent defection of three lawmakers from Mr. Kim's party to the United Liberal Democrats at the end of last year has also caused controversy.

Meanwhile, the preemptive strike coming from the president and his former coalition partner puts considerable pressure on the opposition leader, President Lee Hoi-chang of the Grand National Party. He must fight off challenges from the ruling party, which aims to undermine his efforts to become the next president. As head of the opposi-tion party, he faces the daunting task of protecting his party lawmakers from the probe of the intelli-gence agency's funds.

Mr. Lee also needs to court former President Kim Young-sam, once a political supporter from whom he is now estranged. The former president and Mr. Lee might have to join forces to counter what they see as a political offensive from the pros-ecution and the ruling party.

by Kim Gyo-joon

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