[FORUM]Grand National’s bad attitudeWhen asked to provide an answer to recent problems in the Grand National Party, one representative from the Seoul metropolitan area replied in a self-depreciating sentiment that it was because party members are treated as the governing party in all provincial regions, although they are treated as opposition members in Seoul. Despite being the minority party in the National Assembly, the Grand National Party holds the most positions of governors, mayors and heads of districts and this allows their fellow party members to feel at home whenever they visit those places as it is easier to solve civil affairs and they don’t feel estranged.
The opposition party also boasts its share of wealthy politicians. The average personal wealth of the Grand National Party’s representatives is 1.78 billion won ($1.8 million), while that of the Uri Party representatives is 1.02 billion won. The Grand National Party also has 48 legislators who reported an increase of more than 100 million won in assets last year, compared to 30 members in the governing party, mainly from stock and real estate investments. We are not trying to put the blame on increasing assets, but it is a major reason why the Grand National Party lacks a sense of emergency. In addition to political superiority outside of Seoul, they also enjoy economic affluence.
Representative Choi Yeon-hee’s involvement in a sexual harassment case is also the result of the current atmosphere within the party. It is another case in which the lack of urgency and unwillingness to keep up with the times has come to haunt the party. The excuses that Mr. Choi used to be a well-mannered man, or that he drank more than his limit to liven up the atmosphere in place of Chairwoman Park Geun-hye who doesn’t drink, are of no use. The times have changed such that private companies do not seat female workers next to male executives during drinking occasions, men don’t sit in the front seat with female designated drivers and professors leave the door wide open when talking one on one with female students.
What surprises us is that these type of incidents occur repeatedly. Incidents like lawmaker Kim Tae-whan’s beating of a security guard at a golf course; lawmaker Koak Sung-moon’s throwing of a beer bottle at local businessmen; lawmaker Joo Seong-young’s verbal abuse at a drinking place, and, most recently, Representative Chun Yu-ok’s slip of the tongue in calling former President Kim Dae-jung an imbecile, have occurred one after another. Of course there might be cases where the persons involved might feel victimized or would like to protest claiming the truth was distorted. But let’s put the truth regarding the incidents aside for a moment. The real problem lies in their insensitive attitude of failing to refrain from making remarks that could cause such misunderstandings.
This is not the first time that such an incident has occurred within the Grand National Party. After losing in two consecutive presidential elections, they were at a loss with a sense of defeat for a few months. Then everything went back to as it was before. Hopes for change only resulted in despair. Things were urgent during the 2004 legislative elections, but it didn’t take long for newly-elected representatives, and almost half of the GNP’s lawmakers were newly-elected, to blend in with the chronic atmosphere of the party.
The situation within the Uri Party differs greatly from that of the Grand National Party as both prepare for the May 31 local elections. The possibility exists for a break-up of the governing party should it have another disappointing result in the election, and it might become difficult to find any trace of the party’s presidential hopefuls, who are being tossed up these days. This is why the Uri Party is preparing for the elections with a do or die spirit. In that process, the party has sometimes come under attack for heating up the elections earlier than necessary and having government officials intervene. But there is one thing that moves the hearts of the public; the whole party aggressively works hard to attract competitive candidates for the elections.
On the other hand, take a look at the Grand National Party. Its members are preoccupied in their mannerisms of believing they will come out victorious in the elections and that their only concern is in using the elections as an opportunity to introduce their personal aides into the political scene. A political party that doesn’t aim to gain power is dead politically. If they lack the urge to realize their political goals and policies, and to eventually enhance the happiness of the people and strengthen the nation, there is no reason for them to continue in politics.
If the Grand National Party is filled with representatives more concerned about their re-election than with the party winning the presidency, the party will only continue to taste bitter defeat. The lone force capable of transforming the party’s attitude are the newly-elected lawmakers.
The only solution is for some 60 newly-elected representatives to spearhead reform within the party, although it remains in question whether that will be possible.
* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Du-woo