Beliefs that bind
The myth of danilhwa is working on Chung Dong-young like a dogma. He is trapped in an obsession that he has to be the sole candidate from the ruling circle.
Common words can be seized by specific groups and monopolized for their own purposes. Since Pyongyang started giving particular meaning to the word dongmu, using it to refer to a comrade instead of its original meaning, “friend,” South Koreans have become hesitant to use the word and replaced it with chingu or beot.
Danilhwa, which means consolidation, is also becoming the exclusive property of the ruling party circle. Danilhwa literally means “unifying into one.” Thus it has a positive connotation.
Moreover, danilhwa for presidential candidates gained credibility after the 1987 presidential election, in which the failure to produce a single candidate between Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung led to military leader Roh Tae-woo’s victory.
Since then, Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun have used the expression, “danilhwa of candidates” to justify their actions. What would have happened if they had used wording like “reducing the number of candidates” or “discouraging other candidates” instead of danilhwa?
If a candidate bribes another candidate to drop out of a race, he will be punished under the election laws. However, there has never been a problem for candidates seeking danilhwa.
In 1997, one of the insiders who made the collaboration between Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-pil possible explains the dynamics behind the 1997 presidential election campaign: “Kim Dae-jung wanted to buy a pack of cigarettes that cost 2,000 won. He only had 1,900 won, but Kim Jong-pil had 100 won. So we suggested to him, ‘If you lend us 100 won, we will buy the cigarettes and give you half.’”
Isn’t it a kind of bribery for Kim Dae-Jung to promise Kim Jong-pil the prime minister’s position and the right to appoint many ministerial positions and nominate general election candidates in exchange for his support? Is it illegal to give money but not to offer power? Is bribing a person illegal while deals between political parties or major politicians are considered acceptable political negotiations?
Deals similar to the one between Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-pil were behind the danilhwa between Roh Moo-hyun and Chung Mong-joon in 2002. One of the major reasons why Chung withdrew his support for Roh on the day before the election is that Roh refused Chung’s request to provide him with a written note of what he would get if Roh was elected.
Naturally, the danilhwa of candidates is meant to accompany shady power-sharing deals. Nevertheless, the ruling party circle is desperate to produce a single candidate because they believe in the myth that danilhwa leads to victory. The precedents in 1987, 1997 and 2002 created the myth.
Chung Dong-young, who has been chosen as the Unified New Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, seems to believe the myth. He has repeatedly promised that once he is chosen as the presidential candidate, he would work hard and consolidate the ruling circle’s candidates by late October. After all, the party named itself the “Unified New Democratic Party” with danilhwa in mind, so he has no choice but to champion the concept.
However, he is experiencing confusion in his political identity because he has to take danilhwa into account. He has long supported easing the inheritance and comprehensive real estate tax for homeowners who have one house, but now he insists that the foundation of the real estate policy should not be shaken.
He was negative about announcing apartment construction costs and the concept of public ownership of land, but now he strongly supports the ideas. Thus some voters doubt his sincerity on campaign promises.
The myth of the danilhwa is working on Chung like a dogma. He is trapped in an obsession that he has to be the sole candidate from the ruling circle. He is not the final candidate, so what he pledges now cannot be considered the ruling circle’s final commitments.
At this juncture, he cannot expect his support rating to go up. The voters already know the danilhwa scenario too well and are not very interested.
The only dramatic and unexpected scenario left for Chung, who enjoys the highest support rate among candidates in the liberal circle at the moment, is to back Moon Kyu-hyun.
The only way for Chung to break the fetters is to abandon the dogma of danilhwa.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Du-woo