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GNP in Catch 22 Situation

Posted June. 18, 2002 23:06,   


A high-ranking official in the opposition Grand National Party (GNP) recently met with Kim Hyun-chul, the second son of former president Kim Young-sam in downtown Seoul, who is seeking the party’s nomination for an open seat in Masan, Gyeongnam for the by-election on August 8.

At the private meeting, the official reportedly extended the party’s position, saying “Given the mood in the party, we find it hard to endorse your candidacy.” Upon the news, Kim is said to later call some of GNP lawmakers to ask what would happen.

Either with or without the endorsement, however, Kim seems to have made up his mind to run for the by-election in Masan. He already moved his address to Masan on June 14 and is expected to soon announce his plan to run in the race. According to one of his close associates, Kim is set to “restore his reputation and be born again as a politician.”

GNP is facing a dilemma. Knowing that endorsing Kim’s candidacy will likely throw the damper on the current momentum, the party also does not want to sour its relationship with ex-president YS six months ahead of the presidential election.

Amid growing concern, senior GNP lawmaker Kang Sam-jae visited YS at his Sangdo-dong residence, but denied discussing the matter “I discussed the current issues with Kim including the results of the local elections.” Suh Chung-won, GNP president who also visited Kim on the afternoon of June 18, also avoided mentioning the issue, “Kim gave me a pat on the back for the landslide victory and that was all.”

YS has also kept silent on the issue and so has GNP presidential candidate, Lee Hoi-chang. While the majority of the party are against granting Kim a ticket to the race, Lee’s close aides are weighing whether to take a hard stance or a cautious approach.

“It were corruption scandals involving president Kim’s third son that mostly helped us win a landslide victory in the local elections,” an aide argued that the party should not endorse his candidacy. “The election strategy must consider the worst-case scenario, then we should have YS on our side through the campaign,” rebuffed Kwon Chil-hyun, GNP assemblyman.

Should Kim push for his plan and the party decide not to give a ticket, some point out, the party could instead choose not to field its own candidate, or not to provide much support for its candidate. And party officials believe Suh discussed those options with YS during his visit on Tuesday.

Yeon-Wook Jung jyw11@donga.com