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President Supports Drive Attempting to Form New Party

Posted August. 18, 2003 21:40,   


As Lee Hae-sung, the presidential secretary for public information, and Choi Do-sul, the presidential secretary for general affairs, decided to resign from their posts to run for the general election next year, speculations are mounting in and out of the ruling Millennium Democratic Party that the president is in supportive of the reformist-faction`s drive to form a new party led by figures from the Pusan Kyungnam districts.

The ruling party is now trying to set up a firewall to prevent the drive to form a new party from getting momentum. In a show of repaired friendship with President Roh Moo-hyun, Chyung Dai-chul, chairman of the ruling Millennium Democratic Party (MDP), said Monday he talked with the president over the phone and quoted the head of state as saying, “I have never meddled in the MDP`s `new reformist party drive and never will.¡°

Chung Wa Dae also denied mounting speculations that the resignations of the two presidential secretaries to run in the upcoming general elections were influenced by the president. An official at Chung Wa Dae said, “It is premature the president played a key role in the two presidential secretaries` decisions to run for the elections.”

Despite Chung Wa Dae`s prompt action to contain mounting speculations, some of the ruling camp interpreted the two presidential secretaries` decisions to run for the general elections next year as the president`s attempt to boost the drive for the formation of a new party led by reformists from the Youngnam provinces.

Some political analysts believe that considering the two secretaries, who had declared their running for the elections, decided not to join the MDP and some officials at the MDP`s local chapters, mainly composed of supporters of the president decided to bolt from the ruling party, those latest moves demonstrate the president`s mind has already departed from the ruling MDP.

A close confident to the president said, “The president`s reiterations of not meddling in political affairs can be interpreted that he doesn`t believe anymore that the debate on the formation of a new party will bear fruits. Therefore, it is possible to say that the president will give up the MDP`s roster at an appropriate time.

However, another official close to the president said, “The president thinks that the formation of a new party should be discussed after the general elections. The president believes that it is desirable for the Korean politics that reform-minded figures should be elected as many as possible in the upcoming elections.”

Indeed, Cho Sung-rae, a leading figure of the drive attempting to form a new party, and former MDP chairman Han Wha-kap, held a secret meeting and agreed to work together for the upcoming general elections. Against this backdrop, debates over a possible reorganization of the political arena are expected to be further complicated.

Jeong-Hun Kim Seung-Heon Lee jnghn@donga.com ddr@donga.com