Millennium Democratic Party, the Republic of Korea
H.E. Lee Jung Il 
General-Secretary, Member of the National Assembly

The Millennium Democratic Party has been a leading force in achieving democratization and bringing peace on the Korean Peninsula over the several decades both as an opposition party and as a ruling party.

In 1997, the Millennium Democratic Party successfully brought about the very first peaceful transition of power from the ruling party to the opposition party in 50 years of Korean history. As you have noticed, under former President Kim Dae-jung’s leadership, the party surprised the world by overcoming the IMF crisis wisely, the biggest national crisis since the Korean War, in less than a year and a half. In June 2000, the MDP opened an era of reconciliation between the North and South Koreas through the summit meeting between President Kim Dae Jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. In 2002 the MDP won the Presidential election once again.

Unfortunately, however, the MDP became divided into two parties right after MDP candidate for President Roh Moo-hyun, was elected as President in December 2002. A large number of former MDP members and President Roh split the party and formed a new party called “Uri Party.”

This is ironic in that President Roh was able to win the election using MDP’s nation-wide networks. He also took advantage of the support of active internet users in their 20’s and 30’s that grew exponentially in numbers during the Kim Dae-jung’s MDP administration.

At the moment populism is on the rise in South Korea. The internet users in their 20’s and 30’s account for approximately 60% of total voters and their liberal but capricious political tendencies are almost dictating Korean politics, national security matters.

While South Korea’s economy is going through hard times, the ruling party is obsessed with a plan to move the country’s capital city. We believe it will take several decades to accomplish this project. There is no doubt about the usefulness of internet, however the internet-based populism could alter the landscape of the society within a short time frame. We’ve learned it from our experience.

Since the MDP lost in the election for the National Assembly on April 15,2004, it fell down to the fourth party in Korea with only nine National Assembly members. Considering that the MDP was one of the most influential parties with more than 100 seats, the defeat in the election has been a shame.

The Roh Moo-hyun administration has been focusing on “cleaning-up-past politics” since it came into power. As a result, the Korean public tend to regard all politicians as immoral figures of the public.

I am deeply regretful for the division of the Millenium Democratic Party. When MDP members left the party to join the newly formed President’s party one after another, I vowed to stay with MDP and to rebuild it. I will tell you why.

First, it is my duty to uphold the heritage of the MDP as the only political party in Korea’s modern history which had fought for democracy and freedom for several decades. The party is for the middle and working class people in Korea. It is the only moderate, reform-oriented party in Korea today. Thus, it can lead the country without depending on either side of the ideology groups-radical or extremist.

The MDP laid down the most significant foundation for reform and opening of Korea under the leadership of former President Kim Dae-jung. And MDP’s accomplishments and heritage cannot be easily overlooked or disregarded.

Various political parties by each regime in Korea’s modern history have disappeared with the end of each administration. To prevent the resurrection of “boss politics” in Korea, to eradicate rootless politicians who switch from one party to another chasing power, to evolve to an advanced state, I believe Korea needs an exemplary party with solid tradition, healthy heritage, and proud history such as the MDP.

Second, I decided to stay with the MDP because I wanted to be the person who speaks out that justice and morality are still alive in Korean politics. In pursuant of power, many former MDP members and President Roh left the MDP. They have been continuously denying their very own nest from which they grew out by blaming the MDP as “anti-reform” party.

Despite all the hardships during the past few decades, we, fellows at the MDP were able to achieve the first peaceful transition of government without giving up hope for the dissident leader Kim Dae-jung. Back then, the MDP and its supporters never ceased to demonstrate hope to the oppressed people of Korea and to the world. It was true even during the darkest era of military dictatorship where freedom, justice and truth did not seem to exist at all. Once again, we, the MDP, will become Korea’s hope.

Now the MDP will have a fresh start based on its heritage and fortitude as we always have had over the past several decades. The MDP has support from the 1.5 million members, and will gain the hearts and minds of the Korean people once again as a truly national party that represents all regions of the country and seeks out talented and able young reformers. We have launched medium-and long-term strategies activating “party rebuilding taskforce.” In the taskforce, we will examine and reflect past shortfalls, assess our current status, and design our future course of action.

To start off, we will resolve and heal all past scars and wounds. We had to downsize our party headquarters and manpower, work with a much less budget, and become fiscally responsible. Above all, we needed to heal our members’ wounded self-esteem and pride.

We cannot afford to waste our time and energy in pointing fingers at others. Instead, we will look for new, promising leaders and bring them to the party’s forefront.

We will amend the party platform and policies, as well as party regulations, so that we can reach out to stars while our feet are on the ground. Also, the fee-paying members will be given greater opportunity for participation. And we will hold our party convention soon. The MDP will start again and rebuild through internal unity and self-reform. And then, we will recruit independent members of the National Assembly who share our vision.

We will become at least the third party in the National Assembly within the next four years by winning upcoming re-elections and bi-elections. If we the Millennium Democratic Party are flickering like fireflies now, I believe that we will brilliantly radiate like the sunshine in a few years.