[INSIGHT]Ideological Differences Without FearEvery party seems to have been caught in ideological strife. The Millennium Democratic Party is in turmoil because its reformists are asking a comprehensive renovation of the party in many aspects. The Grand National Party is also sandwiched between its liberals and the challenges from the ultra conservatives from the Yeongnam region, who miss President Park Chung Hee. All the parties were temporarily molded into the current shapes after many political groups changed alignment based on regional sentiment and the prospects of winning the last presidential and general elections. As a result, a left-wing activist occupies a major position in the self-avowed conservative Grand National Party. On the other hand a politician who played an essential role in one of the nation's military regimes holds an important post at the Millennium Democratic Party, which claims strong progressive tendencies.
Accordingly we can not help but be confused about the identities of the parties. In the early days of the Kim Dae-jung administration, the Millennium Democratic Party presented its two ideological pillars: democracy and market economy. However, its policies regarding education and the nation's big businesses are strongly tinged with a left-wing tendency based on egalitarianism. The Federation of Korean Industries and large companies are wary about the ideological base of the Millennium Democratic Party. Some publicly worry about "monopoly on national policies by left-wing people."
The Grand National Party is in the same situation. A while ago, Lee Hoi-chang, its president, spoke of a "cordial conservatism," launching the National Reform Committee. It sounded like the "compassionate conservatism" of President George Bush. According to the party, this ideology is supposed to "guard free democracy and the free market economy," but it is also a reformative conservatism that is against the hereditary inheritance of wealth and tries to narrow the distance between rich and poor. However, their policy toward North Korea and industrial policy are lopsided, defending the interest of the "anciene regime," which was ultra right-wing and corrupt. Therefore, I think some aspects of their program can be criticized for being extremely conservative.
There is not much difference between the Millennium Democratic Party and the Grand National Party in their slogans. The former boasts "democracy and market economy" and the latter exalts "free democracy and free market economy." The people from both parties cite no big differences in their ideological orientation. If there were a major difference between them, it would be their hometowns. The discrepancy between the left-wingers and the right-wingers in the Grand National Party can not be bridged with the conservatism of Lee Hoi-chang. It is the same in the ruling party. We can not say they are liberal as a whole, for there are many kinds of politicians, there are so-called sunflower politicians who have continuously pursued power, others who were forced to join the party to allow it to hold a majority on the floor, and there are the old loyalists to President Kim and the coalition with the United Liberal Democrats. The revolt in the Millennium Democratic Party can be understood as a challenge from the young and reform-minded politicians who followed a liberal Kim Dae-jung, and who oppose the politics by Kim loyalists who are not reform-minded or liberal.
I hope the two parties can be reborn with ideological clarity. This would move the nation out of sentimental politics, which supports rivalries -- between the parties for and against Kim Dae-jung, between the parties for and against the Honam region. Every party has to be reborn as a political organization to represent a political current or class. What is more important is that we have to plant a political culture in our society that will allow every political orientation to show their own colors. To get rid of the tendency to raise issue with the ideological color of a person, we have to give proper space so all beliefs in the ideological spectrum can be positive political forces in our society. That will enable political parties to gather political support based on their ideology and maintain their vitality according to their political color. Though there are some former strongman presidents alive, their once dominant political mechanisms do not exist any more. The Democratic Justice Party of Chun Doo-hwan was dissolved in the days of his successor, Roh Tae-woo. And the Democratic Liberal Party by Roh is gone, too. We no longer have the opposition parties that President Kim Young-sam worked for. There was nothing resembling him left in the party that made him president, after it changed its name and its power structure. The parties Kim Dae-jung worked with have followed similar steps. We can not say the future of the Millennium Democratic Party is bright.
If we view things in this perspective, current political strife in the parties can be expected to result in new political leadership based on ideologies, transforming the old leadership based on feudal loyalty. Is this a dream that can not be fulfilled now?
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Young-bae
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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