The power in the shadowsPublic opinion, revealed through elections, has changed the course of Korea’s modern history. Pretense, arrogance, exaggerations, poor performance and corruption have been judged accordingly, without exception. Since last year’s local elections, public opinion has been lurking in the shadows, but it surfaced again in Wednesday’s by-election. The Grand National Party was punished for its arrogance and corruption. The party had been bragging that the combined approval ratings for its two presidential hopefuls stood at the 70 percent level. But now the party has been stunned.
Politicians must have been shocked to see how powerful public opinion can be. Politicians must look at the history of elections in our country. Under military rule, the Republican Party was guaranteed power for long periods, but in the general elections of December 1978, it was defeated by the New Korea Democratic Party, by a margin of 1.1 percent. The administration kept declining after that and the following year Park Chung Hee was assassinated. During the 12th general elections in February 1985, the pro-government opposition party was defeated and the legitimate opposition party was revived. That election established the democratic movement in Korea.
In the 13th general elections in 1988, the opposition party legislators outnumbered the lawmakers from the ruling party. In that parliament, the truth of Gwangju massacre was uncovered and the corruption during the Fifth Republic of Korea was duly punished. Recently, in last year’s local elections, voters harshly punished the Roh Moo-hyun administration for its poor performance and hypocrisy. The Uri Party was deeply wounded and did not produced a competitive candidate for Wednesday’s by-election.
But the Grand National Party should also have learned that it could be punished by the people.
The camp of the strongest contender for the presidential election was overly proud. The second strongest contender was too lax. It turned out that another presidential hopeful’s constituency was the epicenter of corruption. The party leader is involved in scandals over local constituencies, and the senior members have lost leadership, being trapped between the two major presidential hopefuls. An important meeting to decide the party’s stance on a constitutional revision was attended by just 30 National Assembly representatives. A party member received bribes for granting a party nomination.
We have no other elections before the presidential election in December. The public’s opinion will now go back into the shadows, until then. Polls do not always reflect real public opinion. The Grand National Party has suffered defeat, the Uri Party’s life is hanging by a thin thread and the ruling circle plans to create a new party without proper policies. They must all fear public opinion. Those who do not pay attention to it will be the losers in December.