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Uri Party Discord Intensifying

Posted January. 06, 2007 06:47,   


“Those who agree with the GNP’s ideas are free to join it,” said Kim Geun-tae, chairman of the ruling Uri Party.

I’ll not attend Emergency Planning Committee meetings where I can discuss nothing,” said Kang Bong-kyun, the chief of the Uri Party’s Policy Committee.

Discord among the ruling Uri Party legislators who support the creation of a new party is intensifying as emotions run higher.

At the heart of the conflict over the policy direction of the proposed new party are party chairman Kim Geun-tae and the chief of the Policy Committee Kang Bong-kyun. On January 5, they made critical remarks about each other by saying, “He belongs to an old and Cold-War-era ideology,” and “Any form of interaction is impossible with him.”

Although they agreed to break up the Uri Party and form a new one, Kim, an ex-activist, and Kang, a former government official, differ in their approaches to the issue of apartment prices and engagement policy toward Pyongyang. While Kim supports disclosing housing prices and keeping the engagement policy in place, Kang expresses his opposing view, saying, “We lost our middle-class supporters because of the policies.”

On January 4, the committee chief called the chairman a “leftist,” to which Kim responded the following day at an Emergency Planning Committee (EPC) meeting by warning Kang, “Whatever the circumstances, you are likely to end up a butt of jokes in history if you set up a “quasi-Grand National Party.”

By labeling some of his own party members “quasi-GNP,” Kim denigrated the middle-of-the-roaders in the Uri Party, who contend that the new party should not inherit the ideology and policy of the Uri Party.

Chairman Kim said, “The Republic of Korea needs no more conservative political parties obsessed with Cold-War ideology. The GNP perfectly represents an inter-Korean feud and competition between the privileged. Those who agree with the GNP’s ideas are free to join it.” Lee Mok-hee, the head of the Uri Party’s strategy committee and Kim’s close associate, demanded that Kang apologize to Uri Party members and resign.

Kang forcefully responded to Kim, repeatedly arguing for his withdrawal from the very center of party politics, “I’ll not attend EPC meetings. Chairman Kim shouldn’t have assumed the post. He should’ve run for the presidency.”

He continued, “Kim told me to ‘join the GNP because I am a conservative.’ But I am not. We have to discuss policies from the perspective of new policy-making, not a locally based political party. He should know that such discussions might lead us to agree with some of the GNP’s arguments.”

Meanwhile, the Uri Party’s former chairman Chung Dong-young was also urged to ‘stay farther from the center of power in the party’ by the more modest Uri legislators. In response, the former Uri chairman clearly expressed his will to stay as closely engaged in his party as ever by saying on a radio show of the local broadcaster MBC, “No one has the right to say no or yes to anyone.”

He said, “I have an unlimited responsibility for the limitations and failures of the current administration and the Uri Party. To unite all of us in the ruling party, the party must take the initiative by dealing with its internal issues.”