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[Opinion] Party Speculator

Posted February. 03, 2007 03:42,   


Former President Kim Dae-jung, after making a comeback to political circles in 1995, had sleepless nights before creating the National Congress for New Politics out of the old opposition Democratic Party. DJ jotted down on a piece of paper merits and demerits for the new party on each side of the column. Then DJ saw the lists for merit side longer. Despite criticism from the media calling his attempt “crazy,” DJ pushed ahead with the idea, and the alliance of DJ and JP employed the so-called “going after a tame rabbit then a wild rabbit” strategy, finally entering the top office in 1997.

President Roh Moo-hyun opposed the split of the Democratic Party and walked out the party, then jumping on the bandwagon of the Conference for National Integration in the run-up to the 2002 presidential election. However, Roh himself, after disbanding the DJ-created Millennium Democratic Party, created the Uri Party and hit the jackpot of securing majority seats in the 17th general election thanks to the impeachment. The same Roh is now struggling to hold the ruling party together. Allegedly, Roh is now even mobilizing all his confidantes to persuade party members out of defecting while still showcasing his presidential power by saying, “I open my mouth, Goh Kun get his tail down.” Some quarters within the party regard such his move as a prearranging political move in consideration of post-resignation.

But even such moves don’t seem to shake reservation about Roh out of the party members, and now dozens of the moderate members including Kim Han-gil and Kang Bong-gyun are expected to withdraw from the party around next week. In a realistic sense, creating a new party makes good business sense. That’s because as long as a party can form a negotiating group of at least 20, it can claim the same proportion of the half government subsidies as Uri and Grand National Parties do. If a new party is formed by the first quarter subsidy handout day, it can secure 9.5 billion won out of 56.94 billion won earmarked for this year, or if formed before May 15, it can still get 7.2 billion won.

The newly created party will have become the 116th of its kind since the 1963 political party act. The Uri Party, if it agreed on the creation of a new integrated party during its party convention on February 14, would shut down business in 3 years and 3 months. It will have survived a little longer than the average life span of 3 years and 2 months for Korea’s political party. What lessons would our coming generation learn, growing up and watching all these political dramas littered with power-hungry betrayals and selling out? It just rings so sobering but true that the Korean economy is spoilt by “land speculators” while its politics are failed by “party speculators.”

Lee Dong-gwan, Editorial Writer, dklee@donga.com