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Hong says main aim is private investment

GNP leader says will ensure smooth nomination of presidential candidate

The Grand National Party Chairman Rep. Hong Joon-pyo pledged to act as a “windbreak” for other frontrunners in the race for presidential candidacy next year.

“I have no intention to enter candidacy, nor am I entitled to do so, according to our party constitution,” said the ruling party leader.

“My role is to act as a connecting bridge or windbreak, assisting other frontrunners for the sake of the party.”

The current party constitution stipulates that a presidential candidate must step down from the party’s elected post at least 18 months before the actual election date.

“The GNP needs to stay in power until Korea truly becomes a leading country and I will give my best support as party leader,” the party chairman said.

Hong also underlined that the party and Cheong Wa Dae should work as a team, claiming that his people-friendly policies do not contradict those of the government.

“The key economic goal of the Lee Myung-bak administration is to get conglomerates to utilize their 100 trillion won ($9.5 billion) now dormant in their coffers for the sake of small and mid-sized companies and ordinary people who are struggling,” Hong said in a debate hosted by Kwanhun Club, an association of leading journalists here.

“This is more or less in line with the GNP’s policies.”

The rather liberal policy recently adopted by the GNP under Hong’s leadership earlier raised concerns that they may be deviating from the policy stance of Cheong Wa Dae.

The ruling party even called off an extra tax cut plan for corporations, which was one of the major economic policies of the Lee administration.

“The government, Cheong Wa Dae and the GNP shall all perish, should they conflict with one another, especially in terms of policies,” Hong said.

“We all need to cooperate, especially as we are gearing up for next year’s elections.”

Hong, who was regarded as one of the core contributors to the launching of the Lee administration, also admitted partial responsibility for the current economic situation.

“I, too, feel responsible for the economic hardships which the people are now suffering,” he said.

“The government, however, could not but offer some benefits to conglomerates in order to overcome the global financial crisis.”

The chairman vowed to maintain a hotline with the president in order to keep up with urgent pending issues.

He nevertheless refrained from elaborating on his 40-minute private discussion with the president Wednesday, saying it was confidential.

The former prosecutor also expressed his opinion about the controversial report on justice minister nomination, for which senior presidential secretary for civil affairs Kwon Jae-jin is mentioned as the most likely candidate.

“The Cabinet nomination should not be swayed by the party consensus and I prefer to leave the matter to the judgment of individual lawmakers,” he said.

“I, however, personally think it is inappropriate to veto a specific person from the post.”

The general opinion within the political circles is that the president should not nominate the ministerial candidate from his top aide group.

By Bae Hyun-jung (