[VIEWPOINT]Party must return to AssemblyThe outdoor protest by the Grand National Party that is currently being staged in the middle of the winter can’t be judged appropriate for the major opposition party with a grand total of 127 seats at the National Assembly, no matter what the reason or justification given may be. The party says that the protest is a struggle to have the revision to the private school law effectively nullified, but the method of protest is not appropriate for the current times and does not fit the public’s emotions. More than anything else, that is because there are many important matters piled up waiting at the National Assembly that should be dealt with.
The outdoor protest was a method that opposition parties used in the days of authoritarianism when there was no freedom of the press. In a situation where the opinions and activities of opposition parties were not reported properly in the press, the only way for them to let people know their opinions and activities was to wear a slogan over their shoulders and go outdoors to protest. The protest against the Revitalizing Reform Constitution, the struggle for constitutional revision to the system of direct election of the president and the protest against suppression of the opposition party were protests that were staged under such a closed environment, and the people often participated or applauded such rallies on the streets. It is true that democratization and the peaceful transfer of political power took place thanks to such protests, but we need to keep in mind that times have since changed.
In short, outdoor protests were a method commonly used in the days when opposition parties were suppressed and freedom of the press was extremely limited, so it is only natural that this method doesn’t hold the attention of the public these days when the media environment is completely different. Not only do the people know that the opposition party is not being suppressed, but it is also difficult for anybody to understand the necessity for the party to express their opinion on the street, outside of the National Assembly, when various media outlets report every move they make directly to the people.
The Grand National Party claims that there are a lot of unconstitutional factors in the revision of the private school law but the majority of people believe that this is a matter that should ultimately be judged by the Constitutional Court, not the Grand National Party. If it is not the intention of the party to influence the pending judgement of the Constitutional Court through its outdoor protest, then, the people would think it more fitting with national emotion to wait for the court’s decision, no matter how “righteous and honorable” the party thinks their actions might be. After all, the private school foundations themselves are refraining from any extreme protests.
There is also the question of how much support an outdoor protest that is staged while ignoring other pending problems will receive from the public. Abandoning deliberation of the budget proposal, which greatly influences the everyday lives of people, is a mistake already in the past. However, even if we push that problem aside, there are other issues piled up, such as alleviating the bi-polarization of our society and the North Korean nuclear problem, that must be solved urgently. In addition, there are also problems like the approval hearings of cabinet ministers, who need to be examined thoroughly right away.
We need to keep in mind that the approval hearings of cabinet members, in particular, was a system introduced for the first time following a proposal of the Grand National Party. Therefore the party needs to revive its spirit and make sure that unacceptable candidates won’t be appointed, by giving them a thorough examinations. Giving up the chance for such examinations can only be seen as an acknowledgement that the party was wrong to introduce the system in the first place.
That’s not all. The Grand National Party has a duty to persuade the public and the president, who holds the right to appoint cabinet ministers, through thorough examinations instead of shouting such words as, “Cancel the reshuffle of the Cabinet!.” Otherwise, this will end up as an irresponsible action that has failed to fulfill the duty of the major opposition party.
The public is curious to know how long the Grand National Party will ignore such matters as appointing the chairman of the governing party to a ministerial post, thus degrading the dignity of the party, picking a figure who was once imprisoned for corruption and judged unqualified by voters for a powerful position, or using ministerial positions as a means of leadership training.
Therefore, the Grand National Party must go back to the National Assembly using the approval hearings of ministers as an excuse. If they give up even this chance under the pretext of their outdoor protest, I think there is no way that the misfortune of the governing party will lead to fortune for the opposition party.
*The writer is a professor of political science at Kyungnam University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Sim Ji-yeon