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[Editorial] Pres. Lee and Rival Park Geun-hye

Posted November. 25, 2008 00:38,   


The government and the ruling Grand National Party are moving as if stuck in an awful traffic jam. Despite their pledge to push reform, they have failed to honor their word, merely passing five bills over the past 80 days of the regular parliamentary session. The National Assembly has a backlog of more than 2,000 bills, including the one on the government budget, but it is unclear when they will be handled. It is also hard to have faith in their measures against the economic crisis. The government and the party are not in sync, and seem to have opposing views.

The fundamental problem behind the discord is the conflict between followers of President Lee Myung-bak and those of his chief rival Park Geun-hye. Though the two sides have failed to mix like oil and water, this is going too far. They hardly eat a meal together. Ruling party lawmaker Kwon Young-se says no more than 100 legislators can raise a single voice in the party. Some even say the ruling party has no affiliation with the government. Based on their political affiliations with the two major factions, many new words have also emerged to describe party lawmakers, such as "brethren from the Lee side," "crushed pro-Park figure," and "Pro-Lee by day, pro-Park by night."

President Lee is responsible for the discord within the ruling party more than anyone else. Though he urges unity and communication, he has failed to bring both values to the party because he has treated pro-Park figures indifferently. For instance, he has never eaten with the 19 pro-Park loyalists who have returned to the party. Worse, he has discriminated against pro-Park figures when selecting senior party members or top government officials. As former chairwoman of the party, Park is also not free from blame. She has been uncooperative in state affairs and dragged the government down. Park sealed her lips when the government was attacked in the mad cow scare, but is now raising her voice louder than the opposition against deregulation of building and investment in the Seoul metropolitan area.

This is a matter that President Lee and Park should settle in person. President Lee should take a lesson from U.S. President-elect Barack Obama, who has named his once-bitter rival Hillary Clinton secretary of state, and embrace pro-Park followers and treat them as partners in state administration. If Lee is not capable of embracing a rival faction within the ruling party, how can he lead the nation?

Park should also stop taking a backseat and beating around the bush. It is time for her to take the initiative and fulfill her responsibility for the success of the new administration. Whether to take an official post is a separate issue. Both Lee and Park should listen carefully to what the people really want from them.