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Political Circles Furious over Roh’s Remark about “Weed-like Politicians”

Political Circles Furious over Roh’s Remark about “Weed-like Politicians”

Posted May. 08, 2003 22:02,   


President Roh Moo-hyun`s remarks about eliminating "weed-like politicians" has been stirring up controversy.

In his e-mails to some 5 million Internet users on May 8, Mr. Roh referred to politicians attempting regional favoritism, obstructing reform efforts, or using security concerns for political advantage as "weed–like politicians."

The ruling Millennium Democratic Party (MDP) is divided over the president’s remarks. Reformist members cautioned against any possible negative impact from the remarks while the old guard within the MDP is showing a wary eye, suspecting that the President is putting emphasis on the need to create a new party.

"In his remarks, the President urged the old guard of the MDP to join his reform efforts, rather than stressing the creation of a new political party, said Rep. Shin Ki-nam of the MDP, who is pushing for the creation of the new party. Most MDP members believe that the president disclosed hopes for sweeping reform within the party in time for the general elections next year. In fact, some MDP members who are participating in the initiative to form the new party say that "even if they don’t give specific names, everyone knows who the so-called weed-like politicians are."

Some suspect that the President is targeting members who withdrew backing when his popularity fell during the presidential election campaign last year. This also includes politicians who are taking part in regional hostility in the Honam and Yeongam regions. Some observers say that the targets include those who criticize the new government for its North Korea policy using security concerns and lawmakers engaged in corruption scandals.

Older members of the MDP apparently are showing their concern with the President’s remarks. An MDP lawmaker blamed President Roh for his remarks, saying that what a political leader can say is different from what ordinary people can say."

The opposition Grand National Party (GNP) says that he is trying to side with certain politicians and they suspect he is paving the way for a so-called "blacklisting campaign" by civic groups.

“The President should first ask himself whether he himself is not a ‘weed’,” said GNP spokesman Park Jong-hee in a press briefing. “He is just indulging in media bashing instead of paying attention to the national administration and the public. And as the economy is seeing difficulties and the North is trying to develop nuclear weapons, he is obsessed with forming a new party and reshuffling his political cards. He is the one being a "weed-like politician”.

Meanwhile, Cheong Wa Dae explained that the word "weed" did not target specific politicians. Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson Yoon Tai-young said that "the president just put emphasis on the need for political reform and has used the word before in seminars. What the opposition party calls a blacklisting campaign is not related to the president’s remarks in the slightest."

The e-mail at issue was prepared by the president’s new press secretary Song Chi-bok, copywriter of the advertisement, "Roh Moo-hyun’s Tears."

Jeong-Hun Kim Yeon-Wook Jung jnghn@donga.com jyw11@donga.com