Ruling Party Is Not Partying

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Ruling Party Is Not Partying

Calls for a change in party leadership within the ruling Millennium Democratic Party are expanding into all-out civil war. Unlike the previous power struggle in May, party members are coalescing into two distinct factions with implications of a realignment before next year's presidential race.

Following up on vocal calls by fellow Representative Kim Keun-tae on Monday, the party's reformists called Tuesday for the retirement of the Donggyo-dong faction - the party's largest bloc led by longtime supporters of President Kim Dae-jung.

"Thursday's defeat is an attack on the party's core leadership. We need a fundamental review in that respect," Representative Chung Dong-young said in an interview with KBS Radio, referring to a by-election held last Thursday. Mr. Chung leads a group of the party's second-term lawmakers party that dubs itself "Good Politics." The group was one of the leaders of the calls for new leadership in May.

Representative Chough Soon-hyung, who leads a group of more established legislators, said "The party and government reshuffle carried out in September was wrong. Prime Minister Lee Han-dong and Chief of Staff Lee Sang-joo should immediately resign."

In a Tuesday meeting of a bloc of first-term lawmakers, who call themselves "Dawn 21," senior party officials were openly blamed.

"Only the resignation of Kwon Roh-kap will appease the disaffected public," one freshman lawmaker said. "Officials of the party, the government and the Blue House, who are mentioned repeatedly in scandals, should resign," Representative Lee Yoon-soo added.

In response to the continuing calls for party reform to precede the nomination of the party's presidential candidate, the leadership said Tuesday that it will set up a special forum where all members can discuss the timetable for the party convention and possible changes to the party.

But political insiders said quelling this rebellion will not be that easy, forecasting a drawn-out battle.

The blocs of younger legislators, which include presidential hopefuls such as Kim Keun-tae, are backing sweeping reforms of the party before the nomination of a presidential candidate. Hahn Hwa-kap, another presidential hopeful and maverick member of the Donggyo-dong faction, also supports speedy reform.

Core party leaders such as Mr. Kwon, Han Kwang-ok, the party's chairman, and Rhee In-je, currently the leading contender for the party's nomination, support naming a presidential candidate for the party to rally to.

by Lee Yang-soo

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