[Viewpoint]You can’t fool all the people all the timeThe Democratic Party selected Roh Moo-hyun as its presidential candidate in the spring of 2002 through an unprecedented party primary in which non-members participated. A series of primaries to choose between candidates Roh Moo-hyun and Lee In-jae were held every Saturday in provinces throughout the nation. Presidential candidate Roh emerged through those gala political events.
However, Mr. Roh’s popularity did not last long. Mr. Roh became the subject of ridicule when he visited former president Kim Young-sam and said, “I still wear the watch you gave me, Mr. President.” He also made many remarks and deeds regarded as thoughtless.
Then an aide to Mr. Roh said, “You know how rockets fly? They need to be ignited in two stages. Winning the popular vote at the party primary was the first stage. The second-stage ignition will start soon.”
What did he mean by that? It was some time later, just after Chung Mong-joon jumped into the presidential race under the banner of another party, that I started to understand his comments.
Mr. Roh and Mr. Chung sought to unite against the Grand National Party candidate through a public opinion poll ― an unprecedented step.
Mr. Roh won the straw poll and his victory changed the whole picture. Supporters of Mr. Roh called him “Roh Moo-hyun the fool.” In retrospect, actually, it’s hard to say who was the fool.
Lawmakers are continuing to bolt from President Roh’s Uri Party. At the time of the launching of the Uri Party, Mr. Roh said he would make a party that would last 100 years and that the progressives would be in power at least 50 years.
I don’t know what went wrong with the party. The former floor leader of the party, Kim Han-gill, withdrew from it with more than 20 assemblymen. Even Assemblyman Chun Jung-bae, who was the first to announce his support for candidate Roh four years ago and was the minister of justice in his cabinet, left the party.
The assemblyman who told me the “two-stage rocket” story is one of those who also quit the party.
Yet, no one sheds a single tear, although the flesh of the party is torn apart. Thus, there is talk of “disguised divorce” or “divorce by agreement” floating around. As they were parting from each other, they were exchanging well-wishes such as, “Let’s meet again on the grand road to reconciliation during the presidential election.”
What they mean is “We will come into power again, through another last-minute surprise show at the endgame stage of the presidential election.”
The current nickname of the opposition, the Grand National Party, is “a party with a carload of illegal funds.”
They have nothing to say about this nickname because they received illegal political funds in a car trunk.
The Cheonan training center of the New Korean Party, the predecessor of the Grand National Party, looked more like a five-star hotel than a political party’s training center.
The party’s headquarters, built during former President Kim Young-sam’s term, were also extremely luxurious. It would not have been so if the party had not been confident that it would be in power forever. However, the Grand National Party found itself in a miserable situation afterwards.
As soon as the people turned a cold shoulder to it, the party fell to the ground. The party had to sell the building where its head office was housed as well as its training center in Cheonan. It had no choice but to pitch a tent.
The Grand National’s panacea of “national security and stability” did not move the minds of voters anymore. The party had to suffer misery and pain for a considerable stretch of time. Meanwhile, the party sought the people’s forgiveness.
Now the members of the Uri Party have to answer these questions: Didn’t you live well in the past couple of years by raising the flag of reform and progressivism? Weren’t you elected en masse as National Assemblymen, boosted by public sentiment about the presidential impeachment as if winning Lotto prizes, then strutted around wearing the badges of National Assemblyman? Didn’t you judge our society and history, driving others into a corner by labelling them as counter-progressive nuts?
If all these are true, the party should take responsibility for the wrongdoings committed in the past. It should give up the idea of glossing over reality by staging a political surprise show, such as having its lawmakers bolt from the party. The party should not do so if it does not still think of the people as innocent children.
It would be more despicable if it pursues yet another clandestine plot behind the scenes while pretending to apologize to the people.
It is better to pay for the consequences if it had committed wrongdoings. That is the only way left for them to survive.
Frankly, the people do not care whether the members of the Uri Party withdraw. But they know what an apology looks like.
It is torturous to see that important values of our society, such as progress and reform, have been and still are ridiculed and ruined by the Uri Party.
*The writer is the city news senior editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Chong-hyuk