[OUTLOOK]Chairman must prove neutrality“There is too much anti-corporate, anti-rich sentiment these days. It is an excess of ideology. We must acknowledge the role that businesses play in our economic development.” “Our economy is being impeded by improper union action.” These are not the claims of a hardcore capitalist or a conservative. These are the words of In Myeong-jin, a pastor who once was a leader of the Dosan, or Urban Industry Evangelism Group, which played a great role in the Korean labor rights movement in the 1970s and ’80s. At the time, the government spread the rumor that any company that Dosan infiltrated would ultimately meet “dosan” (bankruptcy). Mr. In was imprisoned four times.
Today, Mr. In is the chairman of the Ethics Committee of the Grand National Party. Some called that betrayal and others accused him of harboring political ambitions late in life. You can’t change politics without getting into politics and you can’t be in politics without becoming a politician. Writer Cho Ji-hun wrote about this dilemma in his essay “On Integrity.”
After following Mr. In’s actions for the last two months, I paid a visit to Galilee Church, where he is the minister in charge.
Mr. In made many surprising statements. “I have worked all my life against the government and big corporate businesses but I acknowledge that Korea’s industrialization was a great achievement.” “How can our government be silent on North Korea’s nuclear program and human rights abuse?” Mr. In said he accepted the Grand National Party’s proposal as a means to help right the present reality in which liberal democracy is being threatened and the values which we fought so hard to uphold and the very legitimacy of Korea are being shaken at the roots. Mr. In, however, added that the Grand National Party in its present “indolent and immoral state,” must change in order to do this job.
Mr. In does not have any support base within the party and this is his biggest weapon.
Mr. In’s failure would signify the failure of Party Chairman Kang Jae-sup, who invited Mr. In as well as Kim Jin-hong, the New Right National Alliance chairman, and Seo Gyeong-seok, secretary general of the National Council for Advancement, who recommended Mr. In to the party.
Mr. In’s independence from any support base group was also the reason he can now so adamantly demand that party member and legislator Kim Yong-kap be disciplined for making derogatory remarks about Gwangju and for supporting an independent candidate in the Oct. 25 by-elections despite his party membership. Mr. In has also called for the discipline of three Grand National legislators who are members of the National Assembly’s Defense Committee for having played golf with members of an agency that the committee was in the process of auditing.
Mr. In’s persistence led to GNP floor leader Kim Hyeong-oh and chairman Kang doing voluntary social work in Gwangju as a means of apology.
The legislators in question, who had first refused to participate in the social work activities, ultimately had to follow their chairman’s example and joined in last week. Mr. Kim started working one hour before the chairman and one of the “golf legislators” vowed that he would work one more week after the National Assembly session closed. So far, Mr. In’s debut in the Grand National Party seems a success.
The Grand National Party has met a strict mother-in-law in Mr. In. In some ways, the pastor seems shrewder than any career politician. He knows his political status and uses it to full advantage in order to achieve what he wants.
The second phase is to examine the ethics of the primary candidates for the presidential election. Anyone who wants to run as the Grand National candidate for the presidency must first pass the scrutiny of the Ethics Committee, under the leadership of Mr. In. Only the Ethics Committee will be able to change the Grand National Party, Mr. In claims.
There is still a long way to go. Mr. In’s weakness is that he might be seen as being closer to certain candidates than others. He worked together with Lee Jae-oh, one of the party leaders, during the June movement in 1987 that signaled the end of the military regime in Korea. Mr. Lee is a staunch supporter of presidential wannabe and former Seoul mayor Lee Myung-bak. However, Mr. In has not met with Mr. Lee since 1987 and there are also rumors that Mr. Lee had opposed Mr. In’s appointment. Mr. In refused to comment on the subject.
Whether the rumors are true or not, unless Mr. In can prove his neutrality, it would be difficult for him to follow through with his political experiment and the failure of Mr. In’s experiment would lead to the failure of the Grand National Party.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Du-woo