Go to contents

Does New Uri Chairman Lean Right?

Posted June. 12, 2006 03:46,   


“The forces of democratization [who were engaged in the democratization movement of the 1980s] have been already compensated by the regime change and their extension of power for another term.”

“Higher economic growth is necessary for more employment and welfare benefits.”

“The defeat was crushing enough that we should give up our charge of the administration.”

Above are quotes from Kim Geun-tae, the new chairman of the Uri Party, who held his inaugural press meeting yesterday at the party’s office in Yeongdeungpo. His comments are extraordinary in that they sound as if they were made by a Grand National Party official.

The context in which he made these statements and the way he will lead the party from now on are drawing attention.

According to the party bylaws that stipulate the chairman of the emergency leadership committee to be the temporary chairman of the party as well, Chairman Kim has become the ninth chairman since the party’s first convention in January 2004 (the actual formation of the party was in November 2003).

Strategic Conservatism?-

Yesterday, Kim avoided mentioning terms such as “reform” and “democratic peace” which have never been missed from Uri Party events so far. “My first concern is the people’s livelihood and so is the second and third,” said Kim as he spent most of his time talking about economic issues.

He also said, “We need more economic growth,” hinting that growth takes priority to welfare.

Comments on the “forces of democratization,” which include himself, and the “forces of vested interests,” indicating the GNP, have also attracted attention. “The forces of democratization have been already compensated by the regime change and their extension of power for another term, and the GNP has been judged when they lost their administrative power,” said Kim. Before he made this comment at the 19th anniversary ceremony of the June Democratization Movement held on June 10 he also said that “I won’t use my career of being a force of democratization as a hallmark anymore.”

Another assemblyman from the Uri Party explained Kim’s comments, saying, “He means that the Uri Party has been compensated for its morality and the GNP paid the price for its faults, equalizing the positions of both. He is urging Uri Party members to exert themselves.”

About the Uri Party’s landslide defeat in the local elections, Kim criticized his own party that “the party’s arrogance and haughtiness deserved it.” However, he added that “although the defeat was crushing enough that we should give up our charge of the administration, that can’t and shouldn’t happen.”

As for his challenge to the presidency, he said, “I won’t break rules to become president.” Nonetheless, his performance as the party’s chairman and the chief commissioner of the emergency committee could be his last chance to appeal to the public for the presidency.

Some analyze that since Kim’s image was so inclined that he is often classified as a leftist, he changed his way of thinking to preserve his last chance to run for the presidency.

Real Estate and Employment Policies?-

Kim appointed Assemblyman Lee Kye-ahn as his chief secretary. Lee was a former president of Hyundai Motors and one of the candidates who ran for the party’s primary election in the Seoul mayoral race. The fact that Lee is a strong proponent of market economy connotes many things.

On real estate and taxation policies, Kim said, “The keynotes and basic directions of the government’s policies are correct. But we will pay attention to and discuss the public’s criticism that appeared during the last election if necessary.” According to another lawmaker close to Kim, “Although his comments were cautious, not to damage the relationship with the Cheong Wa Dae, he put more emphasis on ‘partial revisions.’”

On June 12, the Uri party will hold a emergency committee meeting under Kim’s presidency and organize a task force to check the real estate, taxation and employment policies of the party.

In-Jik Cho Kang-Myoung Chang cij1999@donga.com tesomiom@donga.com