Back To Top

N.K. leader’s death stirs political circles

Parties try to gauge possible political fallout of heightened N.K. uncertainty

Political parties in South Korea were Monday trying to gauge the possible political fallout of the sudden demise of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, ahead of next year’s general and presidential elections.

The ruling Grand National Party and the newly-formed main opposition Democratic Unified Party had been preoccupied with their respective political agenda when the news was announced at noon through the communist state’s national broadcaster.

Most lawmakers and officials had to abruptly adjourn their luncheons and hurry back to the National Assembly building to respond to the situation.

Ongoing inter-party disputes were temporarily on hold as parties engaged in emergency discussions.

The DUP pledged to set up an emergency countermeasure committee under the leadership of former Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan.

“Kim’s death has put on red alert not only for Korea, but also the United States, China, and Russia, all of which face a leadership change in the upcoming year,” said the former prime minister.

“The DUP will do its best to maintain peace on the Korean Peninsula and to abide by the June 15 joint inter-Korea declaration and the Oct. 4 summit deal.”

The news also disrupted the new party’s leadership race.

Candidates including former Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook and former actor Moon Seung-geun pledged Friday to challenge for the chairmanship but their schedules were suspended amid the chaos.

Rep. Park Jie-won, former floor leader of the Democratic Party and aspiring chairman, cancelled an announcement given the circumstances.

“It is absolutely crucial that we cooperate with the U.S. and China in order to stabilize North Korea,” said the senior lawmaker.

Park played a crucial role under the former liberal Kim Dae-jung administration in clinching the first-ever inter-Korean summit and the June 15 joint declaration back in 2000. He also met with the late North Korean leader several times.

The GNP also held an emergency meeting under the chairmanship of Rep. Park Geun-hye who took over the party’s provisional decision-making body Friday.

The party thus put off its renewal talks, including on countermeasures to the recent allegations that it was involved in a cyber attack against the National Election Commission webpage during the Seoul mayoral by-election.

The right-wing party, however, refrained from making extensive comment on the situation.

While both parties set to establish their internal guidelines, parliamentary speaker Park Hee-tae demanded that the related committees hold emergency meetings as soon as possible, thus asking the liberal party to resume its parliamentary functions.

The former Democratic Party has boycotted parliamentary floor activities since the ruling party unilaterally passed the disputed Korea-U.S. free trade deal earlier this month.

Individual lawmakers also made comments and speculated on the death of the communist leader.

“I am shocked that Cheong Wa Dae could have been unaware of such a crucial issue,” said Rep. Jun Byung-hun of the DUP through his Twitter.

Rep. Chun Yu-ok of the GNP, on the other hand, suggested that Kim’s death may have been homicide, resulting from the state’s internal power struggles.

By Bae Hyun-jung (