Party Leadership Attacked

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Party Leadership Attacked

Reformist groups within the ruling Millennium Democratic Party are aggressively calling for changes to the party leadership, which just took command two months ago, after Thursday's defeat in the by-elections.

"The party is at a critical juncture. There is a proposal to nominate a [presidential] candidate earlier than planned to refocus the party, but we call first for a revamp of the party leadership," said Lim Chae-jung, who leads the "Open Politics Forum." Mr. Lim spoke after a three-hour meeting with 12 other party members who favor reform.

Representative Chung Dong-young, leader of a party group dubbed "Good Politics," as well as members of a group of freshman lawmakers, "Dawn 21."

Also on scene was Representative Kim Keun-tae. Mr. Kim has been the most vocal of the reformists, calling for the retirement of the party's leadership. The leadership is dominated by the Donggyo-dong faction, the party's old guard that has been with President Kim Dae-jung since his days as a democracy movement leader in the 1970s.

In an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo on Monday, Mr. Kim said, "I will stake my political career on ridding the party of the Donggyo-dong faction, which is responsible for confusion in state and political affairs."

But Mr. Kim was quick to add that he hopes the current intra-party turmoil will not come down to a face off between the Donggyo-dong faction and the non-Donggyo-dong elements of the party.

In May, the reformist lawmakers demanded an overhaul of the party leadership, challenging the influence exercised by the faction over party and government appointments. But most of the reformers backed off in the interest of party unity.

The current uproar may not die down so easily. Representative Chung Kyun-hwan, who leads "Reform Centrist Forum," the party's largest, said Monday that its 80 members agreed to ask the president to overhaul the party leadership again before choosing a presidential candidate.

Not surprisingly, Han Kwang-ok, the party chairman, and other party leaders opposed a change in leadership at Monday's Supreme Council meeting.

by Lee Yang-soo

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