[NOTEBOOK]Sorting Out the Mess in the Ruling Party

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[NOTEBOOK]Sorting Out the Mess in the Ruling Party

Presidential secretaries struggle all day long to contact the junior lawmakers of the Millennium Democratic Party, who issued a joint statement last week calling for drastic reform within the party. "They all have turned their mobile phones off and lay hidden," the Blue House officials sighed.

The Blue House was never informed in advance when Representatives Chun Jung-bae, Shin Ki-nam on Friday announced the second statement, nor it knew that Chung Dong-young, member of the ruling party's Supreme Council, stormed out of the extended party executive meeting on Monday. Until just before the events, presidential secretary Namkung Jin assured that "Talks with junior lawmakers were successful. Everything would be fine." It hints that the warning of the Blue House was not effective.

A Blue House secretary cynically called the recent events the "lame duck" phenomenon. The current situation could be compared with the October 2 political upheaval in 1971 which was evoked by the ruling party leaders' disobedience to then President Park Chung Hee. Kim Seong-gon, an influential figure of the ruling party, along with the opposition lawmakers, voted for the ouster of then Minister of Home Affairs Oh Chi-seong . Later, he was taken to the Korean Central Intelligence Agency and suffered all kinds of affronts and hardships, and retired from political life. The current situation the ruling party is confronting is so harsh that they are even trying to avoid a vote in the National Assembly for fear of dissident votes.

The term, "lame duck," is, in fact, forbidden in the Blue House, and so has been in all administrations in the past. The term has been a political taboo, which may damage the power and dignity of the president, possibly resulting rage aftermath. Yet, the term became a new topic among the ruling circle.

Who would become the first victim, when the president becomes a lame duck? Then, the ruling circle names influential figures one after another. There is an old saying that power would not last for ten years. Senior Presidential Secretary Park Jie-won's effort to interpret the phrase as if the one who holds power will hold on to it for at least ten years, suggests that the Blue House is struggling so hard to deny the current situation. A mainstay lawmaker of the opposition Grand National Party is concerned that "The lame duck phenomenon is coming too fast. Apart from the showdown between the ruling and the opposition, it is worrisome for our country."

Money and positions were the keys to earn the allegiance of politicians. Adopting such a theory, providing party nomination of parliamentary candidates, supporting campaign funds, and winning the election would be the only way to produce loyal supporters. A presidential secretary reportedly suggested "raising political funds, though small in amount," only to be scolded by President Kim. However, President Kim has no more chances to exercise power to nominate candidates for the Assembly. The upcoming general election has fallen to the next leader.

All that is left are audits and inspection of the politicians. However, there is no one who can drive a sword to the core of power. The Sajikdong Team, the special police unit that received orders from the presidential office, was disbanded due to political criticism and the prosecution has failed to conclude probes into any of the political scandals. The National Intelligence Service, since the days of its former chief Lim Dong-won, has stopped most other parts of its operations except for North Korea affairs.

The current situation was the choice of President Kim who decided to put up with hardships for the development of democracy.

A source at the Blue House argued that maintaining personal and unofficial advisory lines and leading a coalition of the three parties were out of desperate efforts by the minority government to run the nation. It seems to have some persuasive aspects. However, such a structure would collapse soon after the president completes his term. It is even more difficult to understand the current political situation when we try to reason out the goal of prolonging the power of current administration. Isn't it time for both the ruling and opposition to discuss and prepare a new paradigm to suit the vision of the next leader?


The writer is deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Jin-kook

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