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[Op-Ed] Resignation of S. Chungcheong Province Gov.

Posted December. 06, 2009 23:29,   


In December 2003, Kim Hyuk-kyu bolted from the then opposition Grand National Party and resigned as governor of South Gyeongsang Province to dispel “outdated practices in political circles” and empower then President-elect Roh Moo-hyun. The following year, Kim was appointed special adviser to Roh and named a lawmaker by the then ruling Uri Party under the proportional representation system. Kim, however, failed in his bid to become prime minister, something that derailed his goal of starting a presidential bid. In March 2006, Shim Dae-pyong also resigned as South Chungcheong governor in urging an “election revolution for the Chungcheong region.” He teamed up with political veteran Lee Hoi-chang to form the minor conservative Liberty Forward Party and was reelected governor. Shim, however, left the party in August over an internal feud with Lee over Shim’s proposed appointment as prime minister.

Yesterday, Lee Wan-koo became the latest governor of the province to resign. His reason was opposition to the central government’s planned revision of the Sejong City plan. “I have repeatedly promised that I will bet my governorship to seek the implementation of the original Sejong City plan, and I should take responsibility for the halt in the execution of the Sejong City Act and failure to keep my promise,” he said. Critics say he acted recklessly in stepping down as governor, while denying his responsibility to seek a solution for the public interest and Chungcheong residents at a time when the revised plan is pending. Others charge that his decision to bet his political fate on the construction of Sejong City, a national agenda, is a blatant politically motivated act.

On his possible bolt from the ruling Grand National Party, Lee Wan-koo said, “To me, true party politics is about fighting within the party even if I have a different view,” he said. He apparently is aware that he should not defect from the party for any reason, however justifiable the cause, as someone who in the past came under fire for leaving the party to join the United Liberal Democrats. Even if he remains a ruling party member while resigning as governor, his act will not be justified.

Lee Wan-koo also held the news conference on his resignation at the National Assembly rather than at the South Chungcheong Provincial Office, which has raised skepticism. Certain analysts say the ultimate goal of his “politics of resignation” is more than his mere emergence as the undisputed leader of the Chungcheong region by catering to public sentiment there. Critics say he has a strong political ambition and keen interest in becoming prime minister and eventually running for president. Others say he might believe that the Lee Myung-bak administration and the ruling party will need him because he has become an icon of public sentiment in the Chungcheong region no matter how the Sejong City debate ends. It remains to be seen whether his resignation gamble will pay off.

Editorial Writer Park Seong-won (swpark@donga.com)