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Choe to End Hunger Strike and Hospitalized

Posted December. 04, 2003 22:41,   


GNP Chairman Choe Byung-yul, who has been staging a hunger strike for nine days, on Thursday left his office for the first time in as many days to attend the National Assembly’s regular session to cast a vote on the vetoed special council bill.

Choe, wearing a suit, at long last arrived at the main chamber in a wheelchair, accompanied by a dozen lawmakers, including Rep. Yim Tae-hee, Choe’s chief of staff.

Choe is expected to be taken to the Seoul National University Hospital after watching protestors participate in a relay rally, which started on November 28 and circulated around GNP district chapters across the country, gathered in front of the party’s headquarters on Friday at 11 a.m.

Choe, who started a hunger strike on November 26 in protest of Roh’s veto on the special inquiry bill and the normalization of state affairs, will not fulfill what he had initially demanded for at the end of his 10-day hunger strike.

Many lawmakers of both the ruling and opposition parties, however, believe Choe has looted quite a considerable amount of “booty” this time.

First of all, Choe successfully raised an issue concerning the injustice of Roh’s veto through his fasting.

He also gave momentum to the passage of the special bill by successfully making the other two opposition parties cooperate with the Grand National Party, asserting that President Roh’s veto is a “challenge against the legislature” on a special probe bill that over two-thirds of the lawmakers had accepted.

At the same time, Choe built his foundation as a pivotal figure to lead the special bill by establishing himself as the pivot of the anti-Roh camp.

In addition, Choe’s hunger strike successfully settled the feud within the party by raising the intensity of the protest against the ruling party.

Thus, Choe may have blocked the influence of former GNP leader Lee Hoi-chang’s loyalists, while securing the stepping stone toward re-establishing the party as the “party of Choe Byung-yul.”

Some also predict that Choe’s influence will be further strengthened during the nomination process for the general election.

On the other hand, pundits, however, say that Choe now has a political burden as he directed the GNP to boycott deliberations of crucial pending agendas, taking the National Assembly as a hostage.

Support ratings for the GNP have dropped over 5 percent during his fasting and some opinion polls have even suggested that the GNP has lost its lead within the error range.

Yeon-Wook Jung jyw11@donga.com