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[Opinion] Political Lineage and Political Factions

Posted September. 20, 2008 09:13,   


In a meeting with ruling Grand National Party Chairman Park Hee-tae yesterday, President Lee Myung-bak said, “The ruling party has no political lineage and factions. It is united.” Since the administration isn’t a coalition, there is indeed no other governing party. But how many people would find his observation convincing? For the answer, look no further than the people who openly describe themselves as supporters of former party chairwoman Park Geun-hye. If Park Geun-hye had said the comment, it would have been more persuasive.

Of course, it isn’t hard to figure out what President Lee wanted to talk about. He might have wanted to say, “The party should be cautious over rumors of a political division within the party. All members should stand united and support me.” This comment was his indirect way of expressing worry over the recent leadership crisis and division over party floor leader Hong Joon-pyo’s resignation. Some experts say Lee intentionally favored Chairman Park while having Hong in office. The president told Hong, “What the chairman backs is most powerful. The floor leader should embrace all members.”

The problem is that the party’s factional problem isn’t new. The factions can be divided into pro-Lee and pro-Park Geun-hye lines, and the pro-Lee line can be subdivided into pro-Lee Sang-deuk, pro-Lee Jae-oh, and pro-Lee Bang-ho lines. The main standard of the grouping is who helped them become lawmakers. Every pro-Lee faction has different demands. The pro-Lee Jae-oh alliance initiated a movement to urge Hong to resign. These days, the party has reportedly showed signs of division over potential presidential runners.

For politicians, political lineage and political factions are nothing short of a lifeline. The "three Kims" -- Kim Young-sam, Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-pil -- grasped lifelines to use regionalism to their advantage. Money and winning a party nomination were the driving engine. Time and tide have failed to change business as usual because politicians know that maintaining useful connections is crucial. Can President Lee change such politics?

Editorial Writer Lee Jin-nyong (jinnyong@donga.com)