South Korean president-elect Lee Myung-bak is facing a rebellion in his party that could set back his plans for economic reform, with members saying yesterday they might break away because of a dispute over nominees for an April vote.
"Since the party is trying to kick me out, I may have to leave the party," Kim Moo-sung, a senior lawmaker with the conservative Grand National Party (GNP), was quoted as saying by an aide.
With the liberals in shambles after the landslide loss to Lee in the Dec. 19 election, analysts said a united GNP would be able to alter the country's political landscape with a sweeping win in the April 9 parliamentary vote.
Lee's camp wants to set up ethics standards for nominees for the April vote, but that could remove several old guard members who have been convicted of corruption but still kept their seats.
Kim is leading a block of 35 lawmakers upset with the standards and who are thinking of forming a new group with Lee's main GNP rival Park Geun-hye.
Lee has outlined an ambitious set of policy initiatives for when he takes office on Feb. 25 that call for streamlining government and rolling back regulations he feels stifle business. He wants Asia's fourth-largest economy to grow 6 percent per year.
Meanwhile, North and South Korea will cut rail cargo traffic across their densely armed border, an official said yesterday, barely one month after the resumption of what was held up as a milestone in ending their Cold War divide.
The first regular freight train service in more than 50 years started in December but the reclusive North said there was too little cargo to justify a large number of freight cars.
"The number of freight cars which run on the train will be flexible, depending on the amount of cargo," said an official with the South's Unification Ministry.
The reopened 20km route runs between the South and the Kaesong industrial enclave it operates just inside North Korea and where its companies have access to cheap land and labor.
South Korean rail officials said most companies in the industrial park still prefer road transport to and from Kaesong, which is seen as a model of future economic cooperation between the two Koreas.
In related news, an unmanned South Korean spy plane crashed yesterday near the border with North Korea during a routine training mission, military authorities said.
The unmanned aerial vehicle slammed into an uninhabited lot near a plant in Pocheon, 50km north of Seoul, a spokesman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
"An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the crash," he said, adding that no casualties were reported.
Unmanned aerial vehicles, which are remote-controlled, are vulnerable to bad weather and mechanical defects, he said.
The spokesman declined to elaborate but Yonhap news agency said the crash involved an Israeli-made craft called Searcher.
North Korea frequently complains that South Korea and the US operate spy flights over its territory.
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