[Viewpoint]When a party is beholden to personalities

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[Viewpoint]When a party is beholden to personalities

One can endure poverty if one has the hope and will to overcome it. What is really sad is when one is alienated, made fun of and discriminated against because of poverty. This is the present situation facing the Democratic Party.
The Democratic Party fared well once. It was the governing party of the last administration and maintained its political status when the current administration started.
Then it was abandoned by the core group of the Roh Moo-hyun administration and after the 2004 general election, the number of seats it had in the National Assembly dropped sharply to nine. Even the Democratic Labor Party, which entered politics in 2000, overtook its position as the third-largest bloc in the National Assembly.
Since then, the Democratic Party has painstakingly tried to increase its National Assembly seats by nominating candidates at every by-election in hopes of a comeback ― but now it is back down to nine seats. It had tried so hard to live with its chin up, but is back at square one. The Democrats must be feeling frustrated and empty.
The most bitter experience is the betrayal by The One on whom they trusted and depended.
That One of the Democratic Party is none other than former President Kim Dae-jung.
Who was it that aggressively protested against investigating the special counsel on suspected payments of large amounts to North Korea as an inducement to agree to the June 2000 South-North summit meeting at the beginning of the current administration?
Who was it that protested against the arrest of close aides of former President Kim on charges of corruption, one after another, denouncing it as “political oppression?”
Who stood on the front line in defense of the former president when the eavesdropping scandal involving the National Intelligence Service broke out, and which party was it that nominated Kim Hong-up, the second son of Kim Dae-jung, so that he could be elected to the National Assembly?
Yet, Kim Dae-jung turned a cold shoulder to the Democratic Party and rejected its plea to keep silent at least on the issue of creating a new unified party. The answer to this plea was Kim Hong-up’s bolting from the party.
The most inexcusable are the 19 National Assembly members, including Kim Han-gill and Kang Bong-kyun, who finally left the party last week after staging the political stunt of bolting from the Uri Party on Feb. 6, launching a unified new party on May 7 and then creating the Moderate Unified Democratic Party together with the Democratic Party on June 27. In retrospect, they played the role of vanguards for the Uri Party, who carried out the duty of undermining the Democratic Party from within. They gave the Democratic Party the hope that they could “Play the leading role in creating a unified political force that can stand against the Grand National Party.” And then they mercilessly deserted that hope.
On top of that, they did not leave the party empty-handed.
They left together with Assembly Representatives Kim Hyo-seuk, Kim Hong-up and Lee Nak-yon, as if taking war trophies. The Democratic Party ended up playing host to them. That was all.
What is absurd is the launching of the Unified New Democratic Party on Sunday. Even its name is absurd.
They only added the words “unified” and “new” to the name of the Democratic Party. They must have also felt guilty about the appropriation themselves.
When naming the party, they inquired at the National Election Commission whether it was all right to use it as the name of a new party.
They probably made such an irrational decision because they wanted to have the legitimacy of the name “Democratic Party” and the cause “unified” signifies.
It is deplorable, indeed, for the Democratic Party.
However, it is foolish to think that the party will earn the sympathy of the people just because it was abandoned and crushed. The Democratic Party itself is also responsible for its past and present sufferings.
It was abandoned by the followers of President Roh because it internally shook up the then-candidate Roh Moo-hyun, who was nominated through “the first-ever people’s primary” in Korea in 2002.
The party may think it unfair that Kim Dae-jung does not take its side now.
However, the party itself has relied too much on Kim Dae-jung for its own survival. The same applies to the nomination of Kim Hong-up as its candidate in the legislative by-election several months ago.
It was obviously wrong to nominate the younger Kim because there were other candidates, but it did so because it was afraid Kim Dae-jung would withdraw his support of the party.
It is because of such missteps by the Democratic Party that remarks such as, “We will not participate in a unified party with core members of the Uri Party,” by Chairman Park Sang-cheon, or “We cannot follow Kim Dae-jung if he is not right,” by Assemblyman Chough Soon-hyung, do not strike the right chord with the people.
There is only one way the Democratic Party can survive. It has to get rid of self-pity and lingering attachments to Kim Dae-jung, and stand on its own.
Otherwise, it may flounder in the great waves of the presidential election and easily disappear without a trace.
Yet, it still says, “If the Democratic Party and the new party elect their own presidential candidates, we can only go to a unified candidate in the end.”
With that standard, it would be better to just close their eyes and participate in the Unified New Democratic Party.
If the party has no resolution or will to stand for itself, it will be used politically and then wiped away without a trace.
No one will look at or care for a party with no will to be independent.

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kim Du-woo
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