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Will Park Geun-hye Take Over as Ruling Party Chief?

Posted May. 13, 2009 08:10,   


"Park Geun-hye should be the ruling party`s leader."

Certain ruling Grand National Party members are urging former party leader Park to run for the position again, but this idea has nothing to do with support for her.

Those supporting Park as the party`s next leader apparently believe that she could help eradicate discord between the pro-Lee Myung-bak faction loyal to the president and the pro-Park group. For this to happen, however, the party`s national convention must be held earlier than scheduled and the party`s leaders will have to step down before their terms end in July next year.

If Park regains the party`s top position, the party’s candidate for the next presidential election will also be chosen earlier than expected. Her leadership is also expected to significantly affect public nomination of candidates for local elections next year.

Making Park party leader could be a good strategy to reform the party but will also pose many difficulties to lawmakers close to President Lee. Park`s supporters will also bear a heavier burden since they will have to run state affairs if she is made leader.

○ Park’s leadership: last chance for the ruling party?

The argument that Park should be elected ruling party chairwoman first appeared after the party failed to elect her key supporter Kim Moo-sung as floor leader. After recognizing that Park’s opposition has blocked the ruling party’s discussion on reconciliation and reform, party lawmakers say the only way to bring harmony is to elect Park chairwoman.

Minbon 21, a group of 14 progressive first-time lawmakers of the party, and Together Tomorrow, a gathering of representatives close to President Lee, say Park should run for chairwoman.

One pro-Lee lawmaker said, “If we cannot elect Kim Moo-sung party floor leader, electing Park chairwoman will be our last strategy for party unity.”

A first-time pro-Lee lawmaker said, “If Park runs for the election, it will be on the assumption that she sympathizes with (President) Lee. Accordingly, her leadership will be helpful to ease discord within the party.”

Pro-Lee lawmakers appear to support Park’s leadership on the surface, but have mixed feelings inside. If Park assumes the post, she stands to exercise greater influence over the party. If she puts the brakes on government policies, President Lee will effectively become a lame-duck president.

Thus pro-Lee lawmakers are warning against giving up the power to nominate candidate for next year’s local elections. The party, however, is in an urgent situation. If it loses by-elections in October and local elections next year, President Lee will suffer a massive blow in his third year in office.

A pro-Lee lawmaker said, “Since Park is a woman of principle, she will face difficulty running the party if she cannot find justification for her leadership.”

○ Pres. Lee’s decision to play critical role

Pro-Park lawmakers disagree over holding the party convention earlier. After arriving at Incheon International Airport after visiting the United States, Park said Monday, “I`ve already expressed my opinion.”

Those close to Park also said she will stay quiet for a while, meaning she might not run for chairwoman even if the party holds its convention earlier than expected.

A source close to Park said, however, “It`ll be hard for Park, who wants to become Korea’s next president, to maintain uncomfortable relations with President Lee.”

This probably means Park will accept the job if President Lee promises to help her win the next presidential election. If Park becomes chairwoman, she will also get the chance to have a better understanding of the president`s role.

Also, President Lee can run the country more smoothly based on the unity of the ruling party. Both of them will have difficulty making a decision, however, since President Lee would have to give up a lot of things and Park must assume responsibility along with him.

Park is also not expected to lead the party unless she and the president hold direct negotiations.