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[Editorial] Will the Ruling Party Truly Reform Itself?

Posted May. 07, 2009 08:23,   


Following its humiliating loss in last week’s by-elections, the ruling Grand National Party is considering a flurry of proposals on self-reform and compromise. The suggestions include the appointment of Kim Moo-sung, a four-term lawmaker and leader of the faction supporting former party leader Park Geun-hye, as floor leader to seek compromise between the pro-Lee Myung-bak and pro-Park factions within the party. Another proposal is to have the party chairman name the policy committee chair, who is elected as the running mate for the floor leader, to raise the chairman’s power. Some even want a reshuffle of the presidential office and government along with party reform, an early assembly of the party’s national convention to reshuffle its leadership, and a change in the direction of the administration.

Yesterday’s meeting between President Lee and party leader Park Hee-tae also focused on reform and compromise. The president said, “The party should be under Chairman Park’s leadership,” in a show of support for Park Hee-tae and renewing the president’s trust in him. President Lee thus asked the party leadership to remain in power but to reorganize in the interest of reform and compromise.

The biggest problem facing the ruling party is its two warring factions. The pro-Lee faction is pitted against the pro-Park Geun-hye faction. The proposed appointment of Kim as floor leader could involve loopholes, though it holds symbolic significance and looks cosmetically nice. If Kim assumes the post after lawmaker Huh Tae-yeol, another pro-Park faction member, the pro-Lee faction will concede significant power to its rival. If the measure fails to win support from lawmakers who want the floor leader post and from a majority of the two factions, however, it could further heighten intra-party conflict.

More important is recovery of trust on the part of President Lee and Park Geun-hye. In yesterday’s meeting, President Lee made encouraging comments, saying, “It’s about time that the party ended its factional strife,” adding, “I myself will also make efforts.” He should recognize Park Geun-hye as a partner in administration and show his commitment to that end through equitable personnel management going beyond factional divide. If he does, he and the ruling party can attain practical compromise and harmony.

If the ruling party wants to truly reform itself, its leadership must show the will to give up all privileges on its own. For this to happen, the leadership should delegate all matters, including revision of rules, to the party reform committee set to be established in the coming weeks. The chair and members of the committee must be appointed from among neutral figures who can win far-reaching support. If many seek to use the party’s purported reform to advance personal interests, this rare opportunity for change will go up in smoke.

The party’s revamp is aimed to help the incumbent government succeed and better rule the country. To that end, President Lee must embrace not only ruling party members but also those from the opposition as partners in administration. He must pursue reform that can move the minds of the public.