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No Free Ride for `Old Guard`

Posted May. 09, 2003 21:41,   


High-profile figures and supporters of President Roh Moo Hyun from Busan officially launched the “Busan Political Reform Committee” chaired by a lawyer, Cho Seong Lae, on May 9. Its aim is to create a new party, tentatively named the `New Reform Party` with plans to win parliamentary spots in next year`s general elections.

“Priority will be given to obtain a majority of the total 17 seats allocated to the region in the upcoming general elections,” said the Busan-based officials in a press conference. They indirectly expressed their support for the dissolution of the Millennium Democratic Party and said that they would create a new party by distancing themselves from the `old guard` within the ruling party.

The Busan-based reformists emphasized that the success of the New Reform Party depends heavily on whether it will win a majority of parliamentary seats from the Youngnam region in the upcoming general elections.

Cho Seong Lae, chairman of the Busan political committee, said: “Reform-minded people in the Youngnam region firmly believe that the newly launched party should be formed by dissolving the MDP. If the new party is created in such a way, victory in the upcoming elections is guaranteed.”

In the official launch ceremony of the Busan Political Reform Committee, MDP lawmaker Shin Ki Nam said that “if the Roh Administration wants to carry out its reform agenda without fail, the ruling party should occupy the majority of seats in Parliament,” and continued, “the MDP should be dissolved if the ruling party wants to enjoy a broader support base unlike the MDP whose support base is mainly restricted to the Honam region.

The Busan officials state that the MDP `old guard` would not be allowed any free rides in a new party, and strongly demanded that the reform party distance itself from those with vested political interests in the MDP.

“Figures who represent old money politics within the MDP will not be welcomed by the new party,” said committee spokesman Choi In Ho. “If the new party accepts some of the `old guard`, voters will turn their backs on the government.”

“Former MDP chairman Han Wha Gap seems to be trying to turn back the clock on previous statements he made criticizing the creation of the new party, stating that it was an attempt to stage a coup,” Roh Jae Chul, a member of the committee said.

Rep. Jung Dong Young was in hand and took a cautious position, saying that “if a new party does not want to lose legitimacy, it should try to accept into the party as many of those committed to reform as possible.”

Meanwhile, reformists within the MDP expressed optimism about the Busan Political Reform Committee, expecting that it will bring new vitality to the new party formation process. However, there are some critical voices within the MDP who say that the committee is only attempting to appeal to regional voters.

Around 100 public figures attended today`s launch ceremony, including lawyer Lee Heung Rok, close ally of President Roh, Han Ee Hun, senior presidential aid to former president Kim, and Myung Gae Nam, a famous actor.

Hyung-gwon Pu bookum90@donga.com