[VIEWPOINT]The Democratic Labor Party’s quiet failureOne hing was overlooked after the May 31 elections, with so much attention focused on the crushing defeat of the governing party and the overwhelming victory of the Grand National Party: the performance of the Democratic Labor Party.
The Democratic Labor Party seemed remorseful right after the elections, making remarks such as “We failed to read the hearts of the people,” or “We need to make modifications.”
However, more than a month has passed since the elections and there still has been no movement from that quarter.
It seems the party has decided to let its failure pass quietly, as if nothing happened.
After a few meetings, the party came to the conclusion that the results of the elections were a “standstill.”
Are they saying they didn’t move, but they didn’t lose either?
The Korean people held up a yellow card to the party, but the Democratic Labor Party is disregarding it.
The Democratic Labor Party recorded 12.1 percent of political party votes in the regional elections, but it failed to produce even one successful candidate for county head.
Their fortunes have gone down. Yet the party received 13 percent of the vote, similar to their share in the 17th general elections in 2004.
Is that why they are calling it a “standstill,” even though the diagnosis of progressive intellectuals is “a crisis heralding the end of the progressive camps?”
Park Sang-hoon, a researcher and professor at the Asian Research Center of Korea University, pointed out, “The reason why the party has no theories on who or what is responsible for the defeat is because of the friction between cliques within the Democratic Labor Party.”
With the long history of conflict between the NL (National Liberal) side and the PD (People’s Democratic) side, coming up with a theory of responsibility for the elections would mean a withdrawal from the spotlight by the NL side, which currently makes up the party’s leading division.
Perhaps they are calling the results of the elections a “standstill” because the NL side cannot accept withdrawal.
The crisis of the Democratic Labor Party began when it misunderstood its identity.
There were two reasons why people gave the party their votes, and were happy about the Democratic Labor Party’s entry to the National Assembly following the 17th general elections.
The people were disappointed with prevailing political powers and hoped for the Democratic Labor Party to be a source of energy for new politics.
It was time for an autogenous socialist party to emerge in Korea too, and people hoped the Democratic Labor Party would play the kind of role played in the West by social democratic parties. The party failed on both counts.
After the 2004 general elections the Democratic Labor Party indulged in political engineering.
It pursued political profits, targeting the weakness of the Uri Party, which ended in the loss of its majority in the National Assembly.
As a result, the Democratic Labor Party was thought of as the “second company of the governing party,” and the party faced a “conformity of support rates phenomenon” where the support rates for the party rose and fell together with the support rates for the governing party.
However, voters that broke away from the governing party could not turn to the Democratic Labor Party.
The working classes are busy surviving day to day, but the Democratic Labor Party focused too much on an anti-U.S. stance and independence.
Criticizing North Korea or praising the United States are taboos within the party.
It is hard to see the party criticizing human rights problems in North Korea, let alone the North Korean system.
In fact, they did not even talk back when the North said, “give all the votes to the candidate who has the best chance of winning,” about the recent local elections, or even “Democratic Labor Party votes have no use, so Democratic Labor Party members should vote for the Uri Party, too.”
In stark contrast, the party was not at all reticent concerning the United States.
The joint chairman of the Nationwide Movement Committee for Interception of the Pyeongtaek U.S. Base Expansion was nominated as a candidate for governor of Gyeonggi province.
To not much surprise, their slogan, “60 years of U.S. occupation” did not move the people at all.
“Foreign influences based around the U.S. have taken away our democracy and freedom.”
“Korean political power is the faithful representative of domestic and foreign funds.”
“The Democratic Labor Party will get rid of all national laws and systems that oppress our people.”
The platforms of the Democratic Labor Party have not changed at all since they first came on the scene in 2000.
The Democratic Labor Party has to make a choice.
Will it stay satisfied with speaking for the Korean Federation of Trade Unions, or will it become a party that speaks for the working and middle classes?
The French Socialist Party and the British Labor Party, the Japanese Socialist Party and the German Social Democratic Party have all succeeded in coming to power by moderately trimming aspirations for rapid change through socialist political policies.
There is no future for such left-wing parties of the 19th and 20th centuries. Speaking of political reform while deeply entangled in the vested interests of cliques within a political party, is self-defeating and contradictory. Grasping for political power in Korea while denying its traditions is antinomy. A Democratic Labor Party that is not true to history, the nation and the people is worthless.
Democratic Labor Party candidate Kwon Young-ghil aimed for the hearts of the people in the 2002 general elections when he said, “People of Korea, are you happy?”
Now it is time to throw it back to the Democratic Labor Party. “People of the Democratic Labor Party, are you happy now?”
* The writer is a editorial writer of JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Du-woo