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“It Is Better to Rebuild Uri Party’s ‘House’ after Burning It Down”

“It Is Better to Rebuild Uri Party’s ‘House’ after Burning It Down”

Posted June. 10, 2005 06:45,   


“I am firmly resolved in my decision to resign. The ‘house’ of the Uri Party is on fire. I felt that I could become either the water that puts out the fire, or the oil that burns it down to the ground. I would not have even considered burning the house down and rebuilding it if the Uri Party’s situation wasn’t bad in the extreme.”

Dong-A Ilbo had an interview with Uri Party’s lawmaker Yum Dong-yun, who recently declared his resignation from the position of National Assembly committee chair, at a restaurant located in Yeouido, Seoul, in the early morning of June 9.

Yum criticized such reform-minded lawmakers of the ruling party as standing committee senior member Rhyu Si-min and the party’s leadership which supports them by saying, “I believe that this is a time for demonstrating the power of authentic democracy by concentrating the party’s effort. However, it isn’t proceeding smoothly due to resistance from a certain group within the party that indulges in idealism.”

Q: You said that it is better to burn the “house” down and build a new one. Does this mean that you are voting for the dissolution of the party?

A: Not necessarily… I mean that all members of the party have to concentrate their efforts as though they were facing such an urgent situation.

Q: We heard that you considered breaking with the party. Is that true?

A: Before announcing my resignation, I told my secretaries about my intention and ordered them to prepare a press conference. In doing so, I asked them, “Would a resignation be enough to influence the party?” One of my secretaries misinterpreted my remark and drew up a draft that includes the possibility of my withdrawal from the party. But it was never my intention to make a break.

Q: Now, regarding the reason for your resignation, a number of assumptions are being raised.

A: After finishing a Jeonbuk Muju workshop (which was held from May 31 to June 1), I had lunch with lawmaker Rhyu Si-min and talked about the future of the Uri Party. I believe that we can successfully carry out political reforms only when we run politics on the basis of reality and with the victory of the election. So, at the lunch, I suggested combining with Millennium Democratic Party (MDP). Rhyu responded by saying, “In that case, I wouldn’t work together with you in the same party,” which brought home to me the huge gap obtaining among the party members and convinced me of the gloomy future of this party.

Q: Did you have any conflicts with other members of the standing committee?

A: Shocked by its complete defeat in the last April 30 by-election and reelection, the party set up the committee for innovation. However, the problem lies with the people leading this committee. Reform-minded lawmakers who are prone to idealism such as Rep. Han Myeong-sook and Rep. Rhyu Si-min took most of the key positions. This helps us predict the direction of this committee’s future activities. In fact, regarding this, I had a serious quarrel with Rep. Chang Young-dal, a senior member of the standing committee, and, despite this, the party’s chairman Moon Hee-sang appointed Rep. Han as chairwoman and Rep. Rhyu as vice chairman of the committee when we were talking about the composition of the committee. Under such circumstances, I came to recognize that there is nothing I can do here.

Q: Does this mean that you don’t trust the leadership of Uri Party Chairman Moon?

A: I hope, after all, that Moon deals with this situation fairly and strengthens his political ground.

Q: We heard that you expressed your negative feelings about counter-discrimination against the Honam people to Cheong Wa Dae.

A: Even though the perception of voters living in the Honam region regarding the Uri party is more negative than ever before, neither Cheong Wa Dae nor the government has drawn up any measures for it. There’s no denying that they are the ones who played a major role in helping the current government take power. They naturally expected certain compensations for their support. Even though I have refrained from mentioning such discrimination against the Honam people because it might stir up localism once more, it is undoubtedly true that their pride has taken a serious beating. For example, among the 49 secretarial positions available in Cheong Wa Dae, people from Gwangju, Jeonnam, have filled only two positions. Regarding this, voters living in this area are complaining by saying, “How could this situation happen?” I have told this to key officials in Cheong Wa Dae.

Q: Do you think other lawmakers of the Uri Party are following your lead?

A: They came to me and asked if I would go to the MDP after breaking with the Uri Party. They looked extremely shocked. But I just said that I had to take into account the local perception against the party, which, in fact, leads me to consider breaking with the party. Now, I am talking about it with them.

Q: Some say that you resigned due to concern about an investigation on you.

A: That is not even worthy of discussion. The opposition Grand National Party seems to view my resignation in this way. Please, don’t disparage my political resolve.”

Q: You said that you would stick to your principles. Do you have any specific plans for future?

A: During the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592, Admiral Yi Sun-shin calmly prepared for sea battles while constructing the Turtle Ship. I will meet many people and think many things as if I were building a battleship like Admiral Yi.

Q: Did you have a talk with President Roh Moo-hyun before you announced your resignation?

A: No, I didn’t. I have never contacted the president regarding my resignation.

Regarding his remarks, “Don’t do anything rash or foolish,” in response to Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan’s warning on the presumption of president’s aides, Yum said, “I apologized to Prime Minister Lee and shook hands with him,” adding, “I don’t think I am a powerful political figure now. I am afraid of what might happen to me every day. What could I possibly be plotting at this point?”

Yong-GwanJung yongari@donga.com