[KS] Factions

Rüdiger Frank h0727cej at rz.hu-berlin.de
Mon Feb 22 02:55:40 EST 1999

Dear Mr. Sung,

I post this answer on the list because I still hope to get some more
reaction on the initial question. I have included so many generalizations,
that it should be really hard this time for the highly professional
specialists on this list to keep quiet. Please note that I haven't done too
much work on this issue and don't have the time to do so, that makes my
comments based mainly on rather unsystematicly gathered information. If I
knew everything about the political parties in South Korea, I would not
ask, so please do not hesitate to fill the gaps or to correct the errors.

At 11:01 11.02.99 PST, you wrote:

>  I think your short description of Korean political parties is not 
>compatible with what most Koreans think. It is true that there exist 
>some political factions in the Korean political party system, but
>they tend to exist according to the provincial borderlines.

Of course I am aware that politics in Korea are highly influenced by
regionalism (like Honam vs. Yongnam regions), if not based on it, and
charsimatic individuals. I also know, that there are plans to change the
voting system to a kind of German model (I am a German, so this is very
common to me) in order to weaken the influence of regionalism on the
decision of the voters. By the way, I have some doubts wether one can get
rid of a basical problem by just changing the formalities. But I watch the
development with great interest and hope to be surprised one day.

>  <Minju> literally means <democracry>. And many of the political 
>parties that have existed in South Korea have used the name in one way 
>or another. Even the North Korean Government attached the name to their 
>official country name, The Democratic People's Republic of Korea. I 
>believe the majority of Koreans like democracy and they think 
>democratically barring some situations in which some crazy, charismatic 
>leaders control the country with force in the face of fierce student 

I completely agree with you, that terms like democracy or minju are often
(mis)used by people who have very different ideas of its meaning. Consider,
for example, that the term 'Nazi' comes from National Socialist German
Workers Party, but they were neither socialist nor really a workers party
(in the meaning of class struggle between workers and capitalists),
otherwise they would not have been suported by the bosses of the big
industrial enterprises. Another nice example has been shown in the latest
discussion on this list - the term collaboration. Many users, many meanings.

But please remember, how the political parties of the 1990s in South Korea
have been formed - through mergers, with Kim Young-sams Democratic Liberal
Party in 1990  including the Democratic Justice Party of Roh Rae-woo, the
New Democratic Republican Party by Kim Jong-pil and Kim Y.S.'s own
Reunification Democratic Party (T'ongil Minju Tang). All these 'old'
parties have formed strong blocks - factions - inside of the newly created
party, just as most of them in their turn have been created years before in
a similar way. This was the case because the reason for founding the party
was not primarily a set of common political ideas, but the goal to reach
the political power by making it's candidate the new president (and later
participate in the resulting power). Very interesting in this context have
been the things happening in 1997 with Rhee In-je leaving the New Korea
Party (Sin Hanguk Tang) and founding his own New Party by the People after
Lee Hoi-chang has been elected as the presidential candidate of the then
ruling party. Some weeks later Cho Soon and his minor Democratic Party
joined the ruling camp and they together created the Hannara Tang... this
is and endless story with a long history. You are a Korean, you know better
than me that a group formed out of a common regional or school or other
background often lasts forever, no matter how the surrounding cirumstances
change. Because of the mergers and splits and mergers and splits and so on
it is very easy to loose the track - because those groups still exist, but
not as single parties, but as factions within the newly formed political
blocks. So, the term Minju-faction or minju-p'a in this context refers to
the remainder of one of the former Democratic Parties (there has at least
been one in 1951, one in 1963, and the one of Cho Soon I have already

 <Minjung> bears the meaning of <mass>. Some people say 
>that the mass are the sovereign owner of a country in a democratic 
>society. But it is like a play of words, I guess. <Minjung> has no 
>difference from people in its meaning. Some liberal political parties in 
>Korea like the name and a few of them existed with the name.

What I have said about Minju is similar to Minjung. Used as a name for a
faction, it is just a part of a former party name and is to represent
another faction in a bigger party. In Germany, for example, we divide the
political forces inside of one party in >left-wing< or >right-wing<,
>fundamentalists< or >realists<, >conservatives and liberals< etc. But the
differences between those groups in a Korean party are, I believe, much
more deep and intense. That's why knowing them is most important in order
to understand the acting of the politicians. I am looking for a
comprehensive study of those factions, their names and their origins, to be
recommended to my students as a basic reader. The best thing would be an
English version or at least one with not so many Hanja.

>is beyond my understanding. Maybe, it is lack of my knowledge of Korean 
>politics, which I dispute. Even so, I don't think it is an appropriate 
>term to use in Korea because most Koreans might not understand the word 
>including me. I guess the author of the book in which you happened to 
>find the name was either a foreign scholar who had got the information 
>from a Japanese-influenced scholar. I can't say anything about the name, 

I have found the term Tonggyo-faction in the internet issue of the Korea
Herald. I only know that this is a faction inside of Kim Dae-jungs National
Congress for New Politics.

>  Anyway, now there are three major political parties in Korea. As I 
>said before, they ground their political bases on different regions. 
>First, NCNP has the biggest stake in Cholla Pronvince and the capital 
>city of Korea, Seoul and its surrounding areas. The current president of 
>South Korea came from the party and was born in the region where the 
>party has strong support. The party is in coalition with Liberal 
>Democratic Party (LDP) whose political base is Choongchung Province 
>where I was born (but I don't like the party). 

I think the English name they use for the party of Kim Jong-pil is United
Liberal Democrats (ULD)? 

And many thanks to you and all who are ready to share their knowledge with us.

Ruediger FRANK
Humboldt-University Berlin
Korea Institute
Fon: +49-30-55 99 878
Fax: +49-30-2093-6666
e-mail: ruediger.frank at rz.hu-berlin.de
Web: http://www2.rz.hu-berlin.de/korea


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