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GNP Leadership Race Marred by Factional Disputes

Posted July. 01, 2008 03:13,   


The leadership race of the ruling Grand National Party slated for Thursday is increasingly turning to a face-off between two internal factions, pro-Lee Myung-bak vs. pro-Park Geun-hye. Some raise concerns that the factional competition may give rise to a “negative campaign.”

On this, incumbent GNP Chairman Kang Jae-sup told the party’s supreme council meeting on Monday morning, “Since last weekend, there have been allegations of negative campaign. The party’s election committee is advised to take special measures to prevent this.”

With four days to go before the convention, six candidates for the party leadership participated in a KBS-TV debate and clashed with each other on the issue of “factional politics.” The dispute was triggered by the expected massive gathering of some 180 pro-Lee party members in the afternoon of the same day.

Chung Mong-joon, who does not belong to any faction, told the debate, “I heard that pro-Lee party members are going to gather together. But it constitutes a violation of the election law.” He lambasted the move, saying, “Splitting of the GNP along the factions is a betrayal of the public.”

Targeting two pro-Lee candidates of Park Hee-tae and Gong Sung-jin, Chung blasted, “They threw out the party’s charter and regulations that forbid individual lawmakers to join the election campaign. Then how could they ask the people, who protest against U.S. beef imports, to respect the law?”

Candidate Kim Sung-jo also railed against the two candidates, saying the pro-Lee group attempts to support both Park Hee-tae and Gong Sung-jin.

Pro-Park candidate Heo Tae-yeol also got into the act, posing a question to candidate Park Hee-tae, “The organizer of the massive gathering is said to be your campaign chief. When a lot of people gather together, that creates a momentum. Do you think the meeting will be considered an unrelated meeting with the leadership race, which is just around the corner? ”

To this, Park argued, “I’ve never regarded anyone as a factional member. I’ve always been neutral. They support me regardless of their factions.”

Pro-Park candidate Heo also got his share of criticism. Candidate Park Sun-ja said, “There is neither pro-Lee nor pro-Park. So presenting yourself as a representative of the pro-Park group is not desirable. In next discussions, I hope you yourself set the example for a candidate breaking free from the faction.”

Gong also joined the criticism against Heo, saying, “Candidate Heo is stressing that he is pro-Park, which is changing the overall atmosphere of the convention (into factional disputes).”

Regarding these criticisms, Heo said, “The effort to find a solution to the problem should start with admitting to the internal conflict as it is.”

After all, the scheduled large-scale gathering of the pro-Lee group was delayed until after the party convention at the urging of the party leadership.

Pro-Park members, however, massively joined an event marking the publication of a book entitled “Why should it be Park Geun-hye?” at the National Assembly memorial hall. The book is a collection of columns regarding Park and complied by a journalist.