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Uri Boss Tries to Calm Roh-Party Row

Posted July. 05, 2006 03:20,   


The internal discontent of Uri Party lawmakers about President Roh pushing forward the nomination of Kim Byung-joon as vice minister and minister of Education and Human Resources is spreading to Chairman Kim of the Uri Party.

After being belatedly reported on July 4 that Kim met with the president alone, a day before the June 29 dinner between President Roh and the Uri Party leadership, suspicions are rising that Kim might have had a prior agreement with President Roh regarding the recent cabinet reshuffle.

On the afternoon of July 4, it was witnessed lawmakers meeting in small groups of three or four near the Uri Party headquarters and discussing, “Chairman Kim is attempting to appease the discontent of the lawmakers by saying that the nomination of Vice Minister Kim is an essential right of the president might be because he had some type of a deal with the president.”

Recognizing the sensitivity of the issue, Chairman Kim disclosed specific details of his private meeting with the president in Cheong Wa Dae on June 28 through Spokesman Woo Sang-ho and emphasized that there wasn’t any discussion whatsoever regarding the reshuffle.

It was also disclosed that the main topic of discussion was whether the president would resign from the ruling party. Reportedly, Chairman Kim said, “Quitting the party is not advised in terms of fulfilling responsible politics. Help the party.” He explained that President Roh’s open vow not to resign from the party mentioned at the dinner with the party leadership was a result of the meeting.

A close associate of Chairman Kim said that after the May 31 local election defeat, Kim’s highest priority was set on reorganizing the party, and he judged that President Roh’s assistance would be critical to achieve this goal. In other words, the president’s central role was emphasized in order to save the party, but in the end, this too is considered as another type of deal, drawing criticism.

One can presume that President Roh accepted Chairman Kim’s request not to withdraw from the party, but the president might have sent an indirect or direct message to the party, demanding its support so the president can run national affairs as he thinks fit. At this point, some consider that the nomination of Vice Minister Kim meant that the president would not resign from the party.

A first-term lawmaker criticized Chairman Kim, “Chairman Kim might have thought to extinguish the raging flames first, but meeting privately with the president in Cheong Wa Dae was a shortsighted move that neglected solving the essential problems between the party and Cheong Wa Dae.”

Nominee Kim’s issue might heat up again immediately at the National Assembly hearings. Looking at President Roh’s attitude of “I will run national affairs my way,” another “Kim Byung-joon type” nomination might recur. In such case, the entire party will have to deal with the criticism from the public.

Chairman Kim is at a predicament in that the deal with Cheong Wa Dae to save the party might actually push him down into the deepest abyss of his political career.

Dong-Yong Min jin0619@donga.com mindy@donga.com