Charting a new course

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Charting a new course

As the Lee Myung-bak administration reaches the halfway point in office, the main opposition Democratic Party plans to hold a national convention to elect its new leaders.

In light of events over the past two years, the race for party leadership is significant. The DP has been struggling with an excess of ideology and a loss of identity. It has failed to turn over a new leaf after crushing defeats in the presidential and National Assembly elections.

During the massive candlelight protests against the resumption of U.S. beef imports several years ago, the party refused to go to the National Assembly and instead stoked violent demonstrations against the government. It thrust the National Assembly into chaos by characterizing the media law as an ideological issue, and it more or less blindly opposed the four rivers restoration project.

The party has been dragged down by its ties to pro-North Korea ideology - it even opposed a National Assembly resolution that denounced the North for sinking the Cheonan warship.

The party has been suffering from an identity crisis ever since the deaths of former presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun.

The DP owes its victory in the 2009 by-elections and the recent local elections in June 2010 to the current administration’s blunders rather than anything the party did, as evidenced in its surprising defeat in the latest round of by-elections in July. All of this explains why voters believe the party needs to undergo a genuine transformation.

The possibility that the DP can make such a shift at its upcoming convention is slim. Its efforts to prepare for the big event have been haphazard and unorganized at best. The DP chose to hold the convention on Saturday but then abruptly postponed it to Oct. 3, saying the initial date was too close to the Chuseok holiday, when many people leave town to be with family.

The party also still refuses to make public the results of the preliminary vote to pick nine candidates out of the original 16, for unknown reasons.

And the top candidates - including bigwigs Chung Sye-kyun, Chung Dong-young and Sohn Hak-kyu - aren’t exactly champions of reform, and some of them simply stress their personal relationship with former presidents Kim and Roh.

The Democratic Party should find ways to enhance its image rather than create more friction with the government.

Without a new face or real reform, nothing will change. We hope the party will do its best to reflect on itself and develop a new vision that will encourage a transformation.

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