Go to contents

Ex-President Kim Dae-jung Friend or Foe of Roh?

Posted June. 14, 2007 07:26,   


“The Democratic Party played a pivotal role in getting the incumbent president elected. Therefore, it is only natural that the DP should play the central role in producing the next presidential candidate,” said former President Kim Dae-jung on Wednesday, during an SBS debate program.

Kim said he cannot understand why efforts to unite pro-government political forces are being criticized as the “Revival of regionalism,” or a “Retreat to Democratic Party.”

Meanwhile, President Roh said, although we have no choice but to seek the integration of the pro-ruling forces, if the majority agrees, this will make regionalism resurface.

“Although certain regions were the strongholds of the DP, the party did not ostracize politicians from other regions. Even the (main) opposition party has overwhelming support in certain regions,” Kim said on the day. Political analysts point out that, based on the support of the Honam region, Kim is trying to restore ties with western regions by allying with Chungcheong regions, and to unite politicians who support his Sunshine Policy.

Tension between Kim and Roh is inevitable. “The DP received 13 percent of the votes in the Yeongnam region at the 16th general elections. But the Uri Party garnered 32 percent of the votes in the 17th general elections. If the Uri Party can earn 32 percent of the votes in the Yeongnam region at the presidential elections, it will win the elections outright,” said President Roh on June 8, at Yeungnam University.

Roh also said, “Regionalism must be revived under the excuse of triumphing over old-guard forces,” on June 10 at the June pro-democracy movement ceremony; suggesting his opposition to Kim’s involvement in the upcoming elections.

The majority of politicians believe that Roh is concerned that he may completely lose his support in the Yeongnam region if Kim, whose stronghold is the Honam region, takes the lead. By the same token, Roh opposed the disbandment of the Uri Party while trying to strengthen his political base through the Government Appraisal Forum and “Rohsamo” – a Korean acronym for "group of people who love Roh Moo-hyun.”

Many analysts believe that President Roh repeatedly criticized former Gyeonggi Province Governor Sohn Hak-gyu, claiming that he shouldn’t qualify as a potential contender of the pan-ruling bloc because he wanted to check Sohn, who aims to broaden his support in the Honam region.

Therefore, the fate of pro-ruling forces will be largely decided based on how the tension between Roh and Kim is defused.

A group of politicians who seek integration hope that the views of both Roh and Kim will be taken into consideration. In fact, many political pundits believe that a presidential contender who receives “a green light” from both Roh and Kim will eventually be chosen as the final contender of the pro-ruling camp. In this regard, a great deal of attention has been paid to the move of former Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan, as he held key positions in both the Kim and Roh administrations.

Some politicians, however, forecast that the only card that may be able to overturn the current political landscape, where the main opposition Grand National Party is taking a strong lead, will be an inter-Korean summit. Some speculate that Lee pushed his visits to Pyongyang since March this year because he had realized the existence of this exact possibility.

However, Kim is strongly urging the holding of an inter-Korean summit before August 15, regardless of the outcomes of the six-party talks over the North’s nuclear issues; while Roh seems to prefer scheduling the summit after the results of the six-party talks are known.

Still, it remains to be seen whether Kim and Roh will join hands. “Eventually Kim and Roh will be united. However, if they directly interfere with the selection of the presidential candidate, it will deal a serious blow,” said a first-term lawmaker, who recently defected from the Uri Party. “Kim and Roh will eventually take different paths,” a second-term lawmaker said.