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Democratic Party Chief Interviewed

Posted December. 22, 2006 03:28,   


Democratic Party leader Hahn Hwa-gap stated in an interview with the Dong-A Ilbo on December 20 at its headquarters in Yeouido, Seoul, “The political scene should be changed with the Democratic Party at the center, which maintained a fifty-year history, so that its legitimacy will be ensured in its face-off against the Grand National Party.” Following is a question and answer session with Hahn.

―What should the direction of the change of the political scene be?

“It is linked to the decision of President Roh. He should leave the Uri Party. I mean that he should join forces with the citizens, not the Grand National Party, and form a national cabinet. No matter how much the Uri Party talks of unity, democracy, reform and peace, it is bound for failure. Real democratic and peaceful revolutionaries cannot be found in the Uri Party. They’re all failures.”

―Who should be at the center?

“It should be decided by policy after deciding who the center of our party should be. The leadership can be decided by primary elections. By assembling around a person, we cannot succeed.”

―There are assemblymen close to the former prime minister Goh Kun in the party...

“You can’t become rich by bringing in a rich person and setting him as head of the household just because you want to become rich.”

―Could associates of Roh or Minister of Health and Welfare Rhyu Si-min join ranks?

“We should not say whether we can join together or not at this stage.”

―How do you view President Roh’s ‘regional party’ statement?

“The assembly members of the metropolitan area and the Honam area are joining ranks, so why would that be a regional Jeolla Province party? The Democratic Party achieved a peaceful change of hands for the first time and reformed the administration, so aren’t we the best?”

― When will the change in political scene take place?

“Assembly members of the Uri Party acknowledge that their party is not permanent, but their actions do not correspond (leaving the party or dissolution). We look for new faces whenever a new force comes into power. But until now, there was no instance in Korea’s political history to bring in someone from outside the political faction and succeed. Whether small or big, a person from inside the party should step up in order to form the basis of continuing the legacy.”

― Former president of the Seoul National University, Chung Un-chan, is reported to have said that ‘I can’t say conclusively that I won’t become involved in politics…’.

“As people draw closer to the ‘p’ of politics, their characters become more political.”

― Should you leave your seat, who will be heading your party?

“We should go by the rules of the party. Chang Sang is co-heading the party.”

― Would regional variables be important in the next presidential elections as well?

“In any country, regional variables are an issue in elections. To deny this is to deny reality. By acknowledging the reality, we should look for solutions. President Roh wants to cooperate with the Grand National Party because of the Gyeongsang region, so he probably aims to find his niche after he steps down. Actually, after the president steps down, where in Korea can he flex his influence anymore?”

― Inter-Korean summit meetings are becoming an issue with next year’s presidential elections looming.

“The important national affairs should not be decided by party politics and strategies. It should be discussed on its merits. Those in power are serving the country by the capacity legally bestowed on them. So if you forbid them to do so, why would they want to remain in power at all? Even if the summit meeting is set on the day of the elections, I believe that it should be conducted if it helps the country. How to politically use the results of the summit meeting is up to the president.”

yongari@donga.com leon@donga.com