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[Editorial] Lee Hoi-chang’s Betrayal and the Grand National Party’s Honor

[Editorial] Lee Hoi-chang’s Betrayal and the Grand National Party’s Honor

Posted November. 05, 2007 03:11,   


Most political commentators expect former Grand National Party (GNP) leader Lee Hoi-chang to defect from the party soon and officially announce his third presidential bid. In response, GNP members fanned out to talk Lee into aborting his plan recently, but no one knew his whereabouts.

It doesn’t matter whether or not Lee aborts his plan. The party has already officially nominated a candidate pursuant to its constitution and the public approved it. Notwithstanding, Lee has attempted to betray the public’s trust, however, and that is unprecedented in Korean political history.

Lee’s attempt itself is a great shame. Previously, former President Kim Dae-jung reneged on his promise to retire, and Democratic candidate Lee In-je defected from the party 10 years ago after failing to win the party nomination. But Lee’s recent attempt is worse than those previous betrayals.

When GNP members campaigned across the country to win public support during the hot summer days, Lee holed up in his office, enjoying the cool breeze from his air conditioner. Now, when the harvest is about to be reaped, he shows up and tries to snatch the harvest from the farmers. Kim Dae-jung and Lee In-je were not that shameful.

It has transpired that Lee has long prepared for his bid. Last March, Lee’s aides contacted a video-sharing site to open an account for posting campaign clips. What a shame! While his party fought a long battle with Roh’s socialist regime, he closed his eyes to the battle and figured out ways to stab his own party in the back.

As a politician, Lee never stopped stressing the importance of law and principles. That is why he was allowed to run for the presidency twice, and his party protected the two-time loser against all odds.

Let’s say something happens to the current candidate Lee Myung-bak, and Lee cannot continue the campaign. Further suppose that GNP members ask Lee Hoi-chang to take Lee Myung-bak’s place. Considering Lee Hoi-chang’s “past principles,” we would expect him to say, “Look, that violates my principles. Ask Ms. Park [Geun-hye], not me.”

Now, Lee Hoi-chang commands a 20 percent approval rating. Even a 40 percent rating could not justify his breach of “principle.” Lee Hoi-chang’s attempt reminds us of our political history 10 years ago. South Koreans will not forget his betrayal. Lee has broken the minimum set of principles our politicians have to abide by.

The GNP has to trust the citizens and do what it can do to live up to their expectations. It’s the principle it has to keep. Lee Hoi-chang’s “choice,” whatever it may be, does not and cannot compromise the principle. More than 50 percent of the South Koreans approve the party. It can overcome and heal the wounds Lee Hoi-chang has inflicted on it and South Koreans. It can also win back the public respect for politicians. Some politicians voice for a coalition between Lee Myung-bak and Lee Hoi-chang, or other forms of compromise. But that’s not the principle South Koreans expect the GNP to honor.