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KOREA: Parties to Reshuffle Key Post Holders

Uri Party's floor leader resigns for failure to carry through with four reform bills--only a revised motion on regulating the nation's media market was passed

The Korea Times
Sunday, January 02, 2005

By Seo Dong-shin

The leaderships of both ruling and opposition parties seem to be on the verge of a major shake-up after the closing of a plenary National Assembly session. Hardliners of each party have argued the leadership should bear responsibility for what they claim as a failure in carrying their points during the last session held through Assembly Speaker Kim Won-ki's final arbitration on some controversial bills.

The first signal came as the ruling Uri Party's floor leader Rep. Chun Jung-bae resigned at the party lawmakers' meeting early Saturday morning, which was held right after the session. Key post holders of the opposition Grand National Party (GNP) also tendered their resignations on Sunday.

Holding himself responsible for the failure to carry through the four "reform bills" by the end of last year as promised, Chun voluntarily quit the post at the meeting. "The decision is not improvised, I meant to take this course of action upon the results of the session," Chun said. Rep. Hong Jae-hyong, the ruling party's chief policymaker, will be the acting floor leader until the process to decide the new floor leader begins in this month.

Among the four "reform bills," only a revised motion on regulating the nation's media market, toned down from the original proposal of the ruling party, passed during the session. The GNP refused to budge on their stance on other bills.

Following Chun, other members of the ruling party's floor delegation, including vice floor leader Rep. Lee Jong-kul, also expressed their intention of quitting their posts at the Assembly on Sunday.

Ruling party chairman Lee Bu-young, however, remained cautious on his much-speculated resignation. "A floor leader can be elected through the lawmakers' meeting, but the party leadership system is more important," Lee was quoted by aides as saying. "It is vital to lead the party well until the party convention scheduled for April,'' Lee said.

Opposition GNP leader Rep. Park Geun-hye subdued a possible leadership shake-up of her party by saying she wants incumbent party officials to keep their posts until the party's originally scheduled reshuffle in early February.

GNP officials such as secretary general Rep. Kim Hyong-o and spokesman Rep. Yim Tae-hee had tendered resignations to Park, saying it is time for new faces to lead the party as the session is closed.

It remains to be seen whether Rep. Kim Deog-ryong, the GNP's floor leader, would follow suit.

While some members of the GNP insisted floor leader Kim should also take responsibility for his "lack of negotiation skills,'' some argued that it was Kim who scored against the ruling party's hardliners who have been pushing for the scrapping of the anti-communist National Security Law within last year.

The three other "reform bills" the ruling party has been seeking to pass by the end of 2004 - bills on reforming private school systems, reviewing the nation's modern history after 1945 and the fate of the National Security Law - have been withheld to deliberate on during the next parliamentary session in February, according to Assembly Speaker Kim Won-ki's last-minute arbitration that enabled the last session.

Asia Institute