[Outlook]A lesson for the UDPThe United Democratic Party is going through hardship. Party members, although they have formed different parties with different names before, were defeated in the 2006 national elections, the 2007 presidential election and the 2008 legislative elections.
What went wrong? Where should they go now? They are wandering around. They held 152 seats in the National Assembly in their prime and now they hold just 81 seats.
What’s more serious is that the party suffers from a schizophrenic identity crisis. Former President Kim Dae-jung pursued reconciliation between the South and the North. Former President Roh Moo-hyun tried to carry out progressive reforms. Chung Dong-young’s slogan was to create happiness for families. Sohn Hak-kyu shouted for advancement and peace, and KangGum-sil begged for votes. Which one of these shows the true nature of the party? Is the answer “none,” or does the UDP have multiple personality disorder? A person with multiple personality has no consistent identity. Such a person can’t take responsibility for what he has done. Thus, he can’t hold a job responsibly.
Is this the end of the UDP? It may or may not be. When Kim Dae-jung was an opposition party leader, his party shrank after three other parties merged. However, the democratic forces didn’t disappear. In five years, they assumed power, opening the door for liberal administrations, which would assume the presidency for the next 10 years.
It was Kim’s determination to assume power and reform his party’s identity revived the leberal side. Until then, his party, the origin of today’s UDP, was based in South and North Jeolla provinces and pursued democratization. The party’s identity was recreated after it won strongholds in South and North Chungcheong provinces and other forces that pursued industrialization.
The UDP can also remain alive given its determination to take power and recreate its identity.
The UDP must determine its identity and begin to assume responsibility for the nation’s well-being.
The name of a person or a party expresses one’s identity. The party gave itself a great name, the United Democratic Party. As its name implies, to unite multiple identities will be the destiny and vision for the party.
Almost everybody tries to unite multiple identities or values and fight against schizophrenic characteristics. That could be an attractive identity and vision for a political party, as well. However, words are not enough to unite different values. There is an equation. Unification can be achieved only when the party becomes competent and pursues the public interest. Public interest gives a direction while competence becomes an engine. The party can adopt this as its new identity.
The UDP has so far proved to be incompetent. It has only talked about public interest and doesn’t have a sense of responsibility. It was charged with convictions, but it failed to assume responsibilities. The reason why the party lost three elections in a row is due to a lack of the people’s trust rather than its ideologies. Those who became sick and tired of the UDP, which pursued the public interest only in words turned against the Grand National Party and Lee Myung-bak, who seemed to be able to fill their pockets with tangible profits. The UDP’s politics pursued those ideas and convictions. Roh Moo-hyun maintained that his liberal Uri Party should unite with the GNP. That was a truly unrealistic goal. The UDP now must start to act responsibly. It should go from being incompetent and gain competency and should pursue the public interest instead of its own. Personality, not ideology, matters.
The UDP may find useful the example of the late Park Chung Hee on how to become a party that pursues the public interest. Park pursued the public interest. He built the public infrastructure that private companies didn’t want to do. The job was necessary but not profitable. The Gyeongbu Expressway or Pohang Iron and Steel Company are examples. This is what the government must do: The UDP must follow Park’s example. The UDP has a tradition that gives great weight to governmental roles, unlike the Lee Myung-bak administration, which emphasizes the roles of the marketplace.
The new administration might fail to work in the public interest while it tries to create a business-friendly atmosphere. This is a weak spot in the government. Park’s theory about the government’s role can make up for this weakness. These days, massive investment in science is an infrastructure in the public interest.
Barack Obama, a U.S. Democratic Party presidential hopeful, learned from former President Abraham Lincoln, who was a Republican about the importance of building infrastructure in the public interest. Korea’s UDP can follow suit.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Chun Young-gi