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Cablegate: New Liberal Party: Undp Not Quite United

VZCZCXYZ0011
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHUL #2356/01 2180821
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 060821Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY SEOUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5864
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 2936
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 3052
RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 2115
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUALSFJ/COMUSJAPAN YOKOTA AB JA
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA J2 SEOUL KOR
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA J5 SEOUL KOR
RHMFISS/COMUSKOREA SCJS SEOUL KOR
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC//OSD/ISA/EAP//

UNCLAS SEOUL 002356

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KN KS PGOV PREL
SUBJECT: NEW LIBERAL PARTY: UNDP NOT QUITE UNITED

REF: A. SEOUL 02047

B. SEOUL 01684

1. SUMMARY (SBU) In pursuit of a grand coalition of the
liberals, defectors from the ruling Uri Party and the
Moderate United Democrats (MUD) launched the new progressive
party "United New Democratic Party (UNDP)" on August 5. With
eighty-five lawmakers, the new party emerged as the second
largest in the Assembly. However, mired in factional feuds,
the new party faces an uphill battle to create a true
coalition. Only three liberal candidates -- Sohn Hak-kyu,
Chung Dong-young and Chun Jung-bae -- joined the new party as
other candidates from the Uri Party and the MUD refused to
join. The failure to draw in all factions to the new
coalition party means that the primary in the liberal camp
will likely be conducted in three different "leagues,"
namely, three separate primary elections could select
separate candidates to represent the UNDP, the MUD, and the
pro-Roh Uri party. All groups acknowledge they must coalesce
behind one candidate, but this latest half-way attempt at a
coalition makes the process more, not less difficult. END
SUMMARY.

-------------------------
NEW COALITION PARTY FORMS
-------------------------

2. (U) On August 5, eighty-five lawmakers, who defected from
the pro-government Uri Party and the Moderate United
Democrats (MUD), launched a new party "United New Democratic
Party (UNDP)." Their foremost goal is to achieve a grand
coalition of liberal forces, from inside and out of politics,
to field a competitive candidate for December's presidential
election. About 6,000 party members, including liberal
presidential hopefuls Sohn Hak-kyu, Chung Dong-young and Chun
Jung-bae, attended the inaugural convention held at the
Olympic gym in southern Seoul. Neither the Uri nor MUD's
main hopefuls joined -- Uri Party's lead candidates, former
Prime Ministers Han Myeong-sook and Lee Hae-chan were notably
absent. Reverend Oh Choong-il, an NGO leader, was named as
the new coalition party's chairman.

3. (U) The 85-member UNDP now is the second largest in the
299-member National Assembly behind the main opposition Grand
National Party (GNP) with 128 seats but ahead of the Uri
Party with 58 seats. The UNDP lawmakers consist of three
groups: (1) Sixty-one recent defectors from the Uri Party;
(2) The so-called Kim Han-gill group of nineteen lawmakers
who defected from the Uri Party in February, and thereafter
merged with the Democratic Party (DP) into MUD, and finally
left MUD to join UNDP; (3) five lawmakers who were members of
the DP, and later the MUD, and defected from the MUD to UNDP.


--------------------------------------------- ----------
MIRED IN FACTIONAL FEUDS, FACING A DIFFICULT ROAD AHEAD
--------------------------------------------- ----------

4. (U) Despite the fanfare, UNDP has a long way to go to
reach its grand goal of "integrating all liberal forces and
producing a single candidate for the presidential election."
Within and outside of the party, factional feuds are rife.
The Uri Party and the DP failed to join UNDP in spite of the
July 4 agreement among six progressive presidential hopefuls
brokered by former candidate Kim Geun-tae. At that time,
Sohn Hak-kyu, Chung Dong-young, Lee Hae-chan, Han
Myeong-sook, Kim Hyuk-kyu, and Chun Jung-bae all pledged to
form a united party and stand behind a single presidential
candidate. However, six Uri Party candidates, including Han
Myeong-sook and Lee Hae-chan, did not attend the UNDP event,
citing the new party's reluctance to align with presidential
hopefuls close to President Roh Moo-hyun. MUD members
formerly of the DP also refused to join the UNDP, demanding
that any grand coalition exclude Roh loyalists. Park
Sang-chun, who was co-representative of the MUD and a
longtime member of DP, continues to label Roh Moo-hyun as a
"traitor" who broke up the DP by creating the Uri Party.
Reflecting the factional friction within the UNDP, seats of
the UNDP Supreme Council have been allocated to each faction.
Rep. Lee Mi-kyung represents recent defectors from the Uri
Party; Rep. Cho Il-hyun represents the Kim Han-gil splinter
group; former Rep. Chung Kyung-hwan represents the DP group;
and Kim Sang-hee and Yang Kil-seung represent the NGOs and
civic groups.

----------------------
SOHN - A TRUE LIBERAL?
----------------------

5. (U) Meanwhile, Sohn Hak-kyu, the frontrunner on the
liberal side with 6.2 percent support in an August 5
Hankyoreh poll, faces increasing attacks and competition from
his rivals within his party. As a former member of the GNP,
he is attempting to portray himself as a legitimate liberal
candidate. At the August 5 UNDP inaugural convention, Sohn
Hak-kyu, Chung Dong-young and Chun Jung-bae all stressed the
importance of "inheriting the spirit of Gwangju (May 18
Uprising)." Sohn stressed it in particular, trying to
overcome the backlash he caused after saying on August 3 that
"the nation should not be stuck in the spirit of Gwangju
anymore." Chun and Chung attacked Sohn and emphasized their
legitimacy as progressive candidates.

----------------------------
UNDP - FUTURE NOT SO BRIGHT?
----------------------------

6. (U) There are also signs that liberal supporters are
drawing away from the new party and its leading candidate,
Sohn Hak-kyu. In an August 5 poll by Hankyoreh, a liberal
Korean daily, Chough Soon-hyung garnered support from 9.1
percent of the liberal voters, an unexpectedly high rate.
Although far behind Sohn's popularity rating of 24 percent,
pundits see Chough's popularity reflecting the voters' doubts
about Sohn's new party. Regarding the UNDP, only 8.1 percent
said they would support it, while 35.3 percent said they
would not. More than half, 54.4 percent, responded that they
do not know. 36.7 percent of the surveyed saw Park
Sang-chun's decision not to merge DP into the UNDP in a
positive light.

7. (U) On August 6, the UNDP elected Rep. Kim Hyo-seuk, a
two-term lawmaker formerly affiliated with MUD and before
that the floor leader of the DP, as its floor leader and will
now register as a floor negotiation group. The new party
will elect its presidential candidate through a primary
starting in September. The "open primary" will allow all
comers to vote. As the Uri Party and the MUD show no sign of
backing down and joining the UNDP, the primary in the
progressive camp will likely have to be conducted in three
different "leagues," namely, the new party, the MUD, and the
remaining Uri party.

-------
COMMENT
-------

8. (SBU) The progressive forces are in disarray. Even after
some "coalesced" to form the UNDP, they are not much closer
to fielding a unified candidate than before, because key
constituents in this camp, in cluding Roh Moo-hyun supporters
and politicians associated with the fomer DP, were absent.
With the December elections fast approaching, the goal for
all three progressive groups -- the Uri, UNDP and MUD --
remains the same. They must all get together behind one
candidate if they hope to be competitive in December. This
goal remains as elusive as ever.
STANTON

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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