[FORUM]Political wind, political stormA huge change is taking place in Korean politics. The wobbling of the two leading political parties, which have taken the lead at the National Assembly for a long time, forecasts a change in the configuration of the political arena. Among the two parties, it is said, the Grand National Party succeeded in restructuring relatively quickly and shows signs of recovery thanks to the psychology of checks and balances developed among the conservatives and the Gyeongsang region, but the Millennium Democratic Party could sink due to infighting.
Opinion polls have shown overwhelming support for Our Open Party nationwide for the second consecutive week. Polls predict that the party will take at least half of the seats easily.
Of course, a lot can change between now and the legislative elections. Considering the freakish nature of Korean public opinion, the situation could reverse in an instant. As a senior politician said, there is no knowing from which cloud the thunder and lightning will come. But the unusual strength of the wind sweeping across the country overwhelms such expectations of a reversal.
What is this wind? The storm arising from the impeachment crisis blows straight in the direction of the two opposition parties, but its implications are to deal a hard blow to the whole existing politics. It is a whirlwind blowing out of the public’s pent-up fury against corrupt politics, blind politics that has pursued party interests only and confrontational politics that have refused to negotiate. Lee Nae-young, a professor at Korea University, interpreted the phenomenon as the demand of the times that they break away from the dominant values of the past industrial age and of the authoritarian periods. A command to change the old framework now is the secret of the wind.
Is Our Open Party free from the imperative of this wind? We could be mistaken here. The party may be elated, thinking that it is gaining support because it has taken the initiative in the changes. But this situation did not occur because the party did a good job or made efforts to create the situation. The party is just profiting from the blunders of the opposition parties at an opportune time.
Our Open Party should keep in mind that the hearts of the people are now temporarily lodging at its shabby party headquarters in Youngdeungpo but are ready to leave any time according to the same situational logic. Our Open Party is definitely differentiated from the two opposition parties with their senile image, in that it is a new party with a youthful image. Particularly, its rejection of regionalism is a strong point that corresponds to the flow of the times. The emergence of a national party that does not collect all the votes or is not denied all the votes in a particular region is, in itself, big progress. The party’s public relations also seem advanced.
But the behavior of the party members so far is the same as that of conventional politicians. They can hardly absorb the present wind with the hollow political show of visiting markets in yellow jackets and moving its headquarters to a shabby building. Those figures who were accused of being involved in illegal campaign funding and then denied party nominations are openly nominated again; the greatest number of violators of election law come from the party and its politics of confrontational verbal abuse is the same as before. When we hear the party insisting that the canvas headquarters of the Grand National Party is illegal, we cannot help laughing at the shallowness and slyness of its political rhetoric. Its slogans for clean politics sound good, but the party has no vision for the future: With its clean hands, what future will it bring by doing what and how?
The fact that even Our Open Party cannot read the true meaning of the wind overshadows the prospects of our future politics. If the wind is not subdued by the establishment, it could turn into a storm and bring irreversible disaster.
The pros and cons of presidential impeachment are now no longer an issue. We should find topics for the elections in the true meaning of change contained in the wind.
* The writer is the chief of the editorial page, JoongAng Ilbo.
by Heo Nam-chin