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Two Lees’ Silence with Different Intentions

Posted October. 31, 2007 03:43,   


“Let’s not talk that much about Lee Hoi-chang.”

That is the strategy that the presidential candidate of the Grand National Party (GNP), Lee Myung-bak, chose on October 30 to deal with the ever-growing speculation that former party leader Lee Hoi-chang might enter the upcoming presidential election for the third time.

Lee Myung-bak reportedly said to his associates, “Until the former leader himself announces his intention to run for the election, no one should incite him in any way.” On the same day Lee Bahng-ho, director general of the party, called an informal press conference and said, “Lee Myung-bak wanted the party to go ahead resolutely without any worries.”

This stance seems to reflect the party’s assessment that criticizing the former leader would harm, rather than benefit, the party. Lee Hoi-chang is still regarded by many, both within and outside the party, as the “president” of the GNP. Thus, an open attack against him is likely to be seen by the conservatives, the party’s main supporters, as “disrespectful” or “discourteous.” At a time when Lee Myung-bak’s relationship with another former party leader Park Geun-hye is shaky, more trouble with Lee Hoi-chang could question the presidential candidate’s “political tolerance.”

Therefore, it is understood that Lee Myung-bak will show his respect for Lee Hoi-chang for the time being in order to give himself grounds for justification, yet beneath the surface, he will try to deter the former leader from running as a presidential candidate. A close associate of Lee Myung-bak said, “Except for running for office, what the former leader wants can be incorporated to a reasonable extent.”

This lukewarm response also reflects the party’s belief that Lee Hoi-chang will not be able to change the current picture. Lee Myung-bak argued on October 30, “The former party leader’s recent approval rating is claimed to be around 13 percent. Yet this statistic can be misleading since its sample selection is favorably disposed to reflect those voters who think that his candidacy will benefit them.”

Meanwhile, the United New Democratic Party (UNDP) seems to be pleased and has not criticized the former GNP leader. During the meeting of the party’s floor leaders yesterday no mention about Lee Hoi-chang was made.

The UNDP’s presidential candidate, Chung Dong-young, said during a KBS presidential debate on October 29, “The strong pressure from the conservatives will make it difficult for Lee Hoi-chang to make a decision regarding the presidency.” Some, however, speculate that Chung was intent to encourage Lee Hoi-chang to stand for the election by provoking him.

Lee Hoi-chang, who has been confining himself inside his house in Seobinggo-dong, Seoul since October 29, said in a brief encounter with journalists as he came out for a luncheon meeting, “I have nothing to say at this moment about my candidacy. I believe that we will have an opportunity to talk about the issue. Please understand me.”

A GNP insider said, “The current circumstance is worrisome. It will take some time for Lee Hoi-chang to make a definite decision.” Some observations also point out that Lee Hoi-chang want to wait and see the current situation with respect to the ‘BBK stock-price manipulation scandal’ and the return of Kim Gyeong-jun who is considered to be deeply involved in the financial scandal.