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GNP chief distances party from administration

The chairman of the ruling Grand National Party vowed Tuesday to pay more attention to public demand while backing government policies, a significant wording as his party remains at odds with President Lee Myung-bak over a controversial chief state auditor nominee.

His party has and will continue to actively support policies by the conservative Lee government, but at the same time will “make the utmost effort in reflecting public demand in state affairs,” party leader Ahn Sang-soo said during his New Year press conference.

“As a party that must always pay attention to the needs of the general public, we will prioritize the role of making sure that public sentiment is properly reflected in state affairs,” he said. 
Grand National Party leader Ahn Sang-soo holds a New Year news conference Tuesday. (Yang Dong-chul/The Korea Herald)
Grand National Party leader Ahn Sang-soo holds a New Year news conference Tuesday. (Yang Dong-chul/The Korea Herald)

The governing GNP has been calling on Lee to withdraw his nomination of Chung Tong-ki as head of the Board of Audit and Inspection, citing allegations over his unjust wealth-making.

The presidential office has snubbed and criticized the party’s demand as inappropriate, triggering conflicts that could exacerbate Lee’s lame duck status.

Chung, an ex-presidential secretary for civil affairs and former deputy secretary-general of the Seoul Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, is accused of having been paid an unjustly large salary from a local law firm between 2007 and 2008 making use of his position and ties to the president.

Echoing criticisms first launched by liberal opposition parties, GNP chief Ahn had dubbed Chung “unsuitable” for the position during a party meeting Monday.

Ahn vowed, however, to increase efforts for “the success of” the Lee government and the election of another right-leaning administration.

“We want to create a country where the less-privileged sector can have hope,” he said. “We will work together with the people in recovering the economy, improving welfare and creating more jobs.”

“We will also work closely with the government to stabilize commodity prices and create welfare policies that actually help improve the lives of underprivileged people,” Ahn added.

The ruling party leader also proposed to rival parties to begin discussing the issue of revising the country’s decades-old Constitution by first setting up a special parliamentary committee.

“What should come first is the creation of a framework to begin actual discussions on the issue,” he said. “We must also start discussing reforming the election system to overcome regional division and secure national unity.”

Political parties are together on the need for changing the Constitution to redraw electoral and administrative districts, and thereby overcoming the longstanding regionally skewed voting patterns.

But they are largely divided over ways of replacing the current single five-year term of the president with a four-year term with a chance of re-election, as the move could immediately influence the power balance of rival political forces ahead of elections.

The main opposition Democratic Party criticized Ahn’s speech as “empty and useless,” calling on the ruling party to “stop acting like the president’s robot.”

“The ruling party is emphasizing welfare and regional economy when it is actually responsible for the situation the people currently are in,” said the party’s spokesman Lee Chun-seok. “We hope the party keeps to its promise and actually makes an effort in soothing the public sentiment and achieving national unity.”

By Shin Hae-in (hayney@heraldcorp.com)
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