Law of action and reactionThe ruling Grand National Party is facing the biggest crisis since its defeat in the 2004 general election. At the time, they lost their majority in the National Assembly because of their ill-fated attempt to impeach President Roh Moo-hyun. But they pulled themselves together and won sweeping victories in the re-elections and subsequent by-elections, and again in the local elections of 2006. The GNP took power in 2008 and regained their control of the legislative branch. But that was all. The huge wave of candlelight protests against U.S. beef imports led the GNP to defeat in elections last year, signaling the gigantic tsunami that was to come.
Meanwhile, the commotion in Chungcheong over the Lee Myung-bak administration’s plan to scrap the Sejong City project, coupled with the GNP’s political euphoria over the Cheonan sinking, heralded their recent election losses.
Since their defeat in last year’s elections, the GNP has faced demands for a massive overhaul of its operations. Instead, they have completely ignored the wishes of the people and pushed the Sejong City and four rivers restoration projects forward. Their actions have left them stigmatized as an arrogant party. Moreover, they have never mended their sharp internal divisions, even splitting into pro-Lee and pro-Park factions, while the opposition camp was unified.
If the Lee administration fails to change the way it operates, the voters will react even more strongly next time. Though leaders of the GNP and the government have announced their resignation, the core of the reform plan should lie in innovations implemented on the domestic front. Rather than aiming for glitzy accomplishments like hosting the G-20 Summit or winning bids for nuclear reactors overseas, it should do what the people really want in areas like development and education.
For its part, the Democratic Party should not be too intoxicated by its victory. The DP yesterday urged the government to scrap its North Korea policy, including the freeze on South-North exchanges, submission of the Cheonan case to the UN Security Council and the ban on the North’s vessels in Southern waters. It even demanded the government apologize for exploiting the Cheonan sinking for its own political gain. Actions such as these will blur the essence of the tragic incident and dishonor the 46 men who died aboard the warship. One thing seems to be clear: If the DP goes too far, it could eventually confront the same fate the ruling party is facing now. Voters gave the DP a victory to protest the Lee administration’s self-righteous way of running the nation, not against its handling of the Cheonan disaster. If the DP forgets the law of action and reaction, it could be judged by the voters at any time.