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New ruling party chairman interviewed

Posted December. 19, 2000 13:38,   


Kim Joong-Kwon, a member of the ruling Millennium Democratic Party (MDP) Supreme Council, came to his residence in Pukahyon-dong, Seoul as late as midnight Monday to encounter the waiting press corps and gave a brief interview.

Q: What will the role of the party chairman be in future?

A: Anybody can be the party chairman who is able to resolve the difficulties facing the ruling party. There is no distinction as to Tongkyo-dong faction or non-Tongkyo-dong faction, the real power or the non-real power. The chairman should be a man who can grapple with the predicament of the party and lead in achieving party unity and overcoming the crisis. It does not hold water to argue against a future presidential aspirant becoming the party chairman. Having a mere manager-type in the chair might disrupt the party to the fancy of the Grand National Party (GNP). A caretaker might fit in with the opposition logic.

Q: Have you had a word with President Kim of late?

A: I have not met him alone. When I joined the presidential entourage attending the ASEAN plus Three summit in Singapore, I told the president what was on my mind. I spoke quite a lot during the Supreme Council meeting in Cheong Wa Dae on Dec. 2. I said as follows: ¡°I did not know why you bothered about the party so much, but I came to understand when I came into the party. Under no government there has arisen criticism of the party leadership within the ruling party. The GNP is bound to attack our party no matter what kind of leadership takes over. It is necessary to lay weight on the party chairman to enable him to close the party ranks."

Q: What do you mean by laying weight?

A: The ruling party is supposed to show confidence to the people in quite a dignified and firm manner. If the chairman of the ruling party is shaky, the people will not feel at ease and pull themselves together. That is what I mean.

Q: Will you not find it difficult to fulfill the chairman's part because of your weak power base within the party?

A: I won the third largest number of votes in the Supreme Council election. It meant 43 percent of support. I enjoy comfortable support. We should have a person who is capable of strengthening internal harmony of the party so as to tide over the difficult times. As chief secretary to the party president, I have been in a position to know the intent of the party¡¯s top leader best.

Q: What has become of your campaign to expand your party's power base eastward (meaning into the southeastern provinces), which you launched while in the position of the chief secretary?

A: That is the last expression I like. We have never done any drive for eastward advancement. It was put both the west and east on good terms and was President Kim's initiative, not mine.

Q: Won't you have a hard time because you do not hold a seat in the National Assembly?

A: Whether I am an assemblyman or not does not matter. Who can pull through is what counts. Lee Man-Sup and Cho Se-Hyung also did a good job as chairmen even though they were also out of the legislative chamber.

Q: Some people took issue with your inadequate progress in achieving internal party unity.

A: A few first-term legislators say something, while some senior assemblymen remain silent. Such qualifications concern the ability to pull together and through by reexamining why they raise that question inside the party.

Q: Are you a real-power type or a caretaker type?

A: The opaque differentiation between the real-power type and the manager-type is secondary to a drive to move the party ahead once one has taken upon the job.

Park Sung-Won swpark@donga.com