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Uri Party Chairman Stresses Coalition

Posted December. 26, 2006 07:25,   


Dong-A Ilbo conducted an interview with Kim Geun-tae, chairman of the Uri Party, at the party office located in Yeongdeungpo yesterday. Regarding the coming presidential election campaign, Kim stressed that, “We can’t feel confident of winning in the election even if we achieve unity with the Democratic Party and former Prime Minister Goh Kun. Thus, it is very important to seek cooperation with external figures such as Park Won-soon, director of the Hope Institute, and Chung Un-chan, former President of Seoul National University.” Kim also expressed his anxiety by saying, “This is a matter of urgency. I am willing to do anything to persuade them to support the party.”

In response to question asking whether he has plans to leave office, Kim asserted that he will remain office until next February, when the party’s national convention is held, and said that, “I think I should do what I am supposed to do until the productive decision is made.”

The following is the full interview with Kim.

-The approval rating of the Uri Party is under 10 percent now.

“The Uri Party is being attacked now by criticism as well as people’s indifference. I think this is a time to start again.”

- What do you think is the reason for the failures?

“I think it comes from the party’s identity crisis. In fact, we promised that we would release all apartment house costs before the general election was held. However, we didn’t keep the promise afterwards. We also had a plan to abolish the National Security Law. We changed the plan later. To make things worse, it is very rare to see strong leadership within the party. Even if we obtained more that half seat of the National Assembly, it was nothing but a windfall gain from President Roh Moo-hyun’s impeachment row. Unfortunately, we didn’t fully consider such facts.”

- Don’t you think that the Uri Party should be blamed for assisting the president in the wrong direction?

“Mistakes made by the party got the president in trouble and vice versa. I think there was something wrong with the communications with the president.”

-You are calling for unity of groups working for peaceful reformation.

“I believe that the vision we should advocate over next five or ten years is peace and prosperity. As for political strategy, we should work together to unify power groups against the opposition Grand National Party (GNP) and never let the GNP dominate political circles.”

- Are you seeking unity with Democratic Party and former Prime Minister Goh Kun?

“I am suspicious that we can win the election only with unity of the Democratic Party and Goh Kun. What we should do now is to stimulate civic groups and intellectuals who contributed to creating the participatory government and reserve room for them to participate in the campaign again with confidence.”

-We have heard that as figures who are appropriate to carry out such a role, some party members mentioned Park Won-soon, director of the Hope Institute, Choi Yeol, advisor of the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement, and Moon Guk-hyun, president of Yuhan Kimberly.

“I want to appeal and even threaten them to help us. I would like to ask them if they could share the burden caused by the crisis of groups working for peaceful reformation. In fact, it is a shame for me to ask such request to them. But I have no choice now.”

-How about Chung Un-chan, the former president of Seoul National University?

“It is a very risky attempt for intellectuals to participate in real politics because they can be easily seen as schemers to the public. I haven’t contacted Chung yet, but I would like to tell him that we are lacking power now.”

- Some people argue that you should give up running in the presidential election to invite figures from other sectors.

“I understand their point. I believe that this is a way of expressing their anxiety for the current unstable political situation of the Uri Party. However, given the fact that there is no hopeful candidate within the party, such an argument has nothing to make things different.”

- Do you have a specific plan for the party’s national convention next year?

“I think it is the best way to conduct the convention on the basis of a discussion reflected in reports presented by members about the party’s future political direction and measures for further development. Even though I am doubtful that we can operate the convention in such way, I will push for this plan any way.”

-We have been informed that former ministers of defense are having a meeting and President Roh’s sarcastic remarks to ministers of defense on last Thursday is provoking controversy now.

“This happening comes from Roh’s intention to directly express the current problems and call for people’s support. However, I think it would be better for President to seek different way to speak.”

-President Roh said that he appointed you and Chung Dong-young, former chairman of the Uri party as ministers for “broad-mindedness policy.” Do you agree with that? Don’t you think that Mr. Chung and you are political opponents to President Roh?

“I carefully listened to that remarks. Since being nominated as candidate, we are no longer opponents of each other.”

- President Roh said, “I appointed Kim and Chung as ministers for “broad-mindedness policy” to them, and was only blamed for everything?” Some people view that such remarks come from Roh’s complaint about your plan to establish a unified new party while seeking different political way from President Roh. What do you think about that?

“I don’t know. I don’t think it is proper to mention anything about this.”

-Some people point out that you didn’t fully show your ability when you served as Minister of Health and Welfare.

“I don’t want to say anything about that. During my tenure, we enacted the Act for Low Birth Rate and Aging and established a special committee for national pension so that we paved way for pension reform. Of course there are many things we need to supplement.”

- Former Prime Minister Goh Kun said that he planned to have a discussion about ‘Autumn Sunshine Policy.’

“If a story covered in the mass media is true, I don’t think Goh’s Autumn Sunshine Policy is proper now because Japan can exercise “carrot and stick policy” to North Korea. We just respect the sanction the UN decided. Therefore, I don’t think it is effective for South Korea to impose independent restrictions to North Korea because it isn’t impressive enough to drive North Korea to the negotiation table.

-Do you have any comments on plan to have Inter-Korea Summit before the presidential election is held?

“To have a second Inter-Korea Summit, we should have a channel for two heads to meet regularly. Unfortunately, this channel hasn’t be settled. I am in side with the opinion that we should have the summit before the presidential election.”

yongari@donga.com mindy@donga.com