Ruling party sullies its reputationThe ruling party should be able to calm the nerves of the public in the face of a security crisis. But the leadership of the Grand National Party appears to be doing the opposite. Many wonder if the highly incompetent and factionalized leadership can survive until the end of the term in July 2012.
The biggest problem is its chairman. Representative Ahn Sang-soo bypassed his military service while studying for the bar exam for reasons that are still unclear. At best, he should have kept a low profile or been extra discreet on security matters. But while visiting Yeonpyeong Island a day after the barrage, he made himself a laughing stock by posing with cylindrical objects he claimed were artillery shells from North Korea but turned out to be Thermoses.
Further sullying the GNP, Ahn, over a lunch meeting with women journalists, criticized society’s obsession with plastic surgery when he joked that men “go for girls who are natural” when they go to room salons. His slips, however, have done so much damage that even keeping mum won’t help. What authority does he have now with the military?
Other party bigwigs have done no better. The party should present a synchronized voice on important issues, but personal opinions incoherent to party consensus often pop up in the news. It is no wonder the party comes across as fractional and irrelevant. The recent meeting among executive and senior members on North Korea policy underscored the rift, with Representatives Chung Doo-un, Hong Sa-duk and Nam Kyung-pil demanding revision of the government’s approach on North Korea. Chung argued that Seoul should revisit its hawkish position on North Korea and foreign and security affairs.
Senior party members are free to voice different opinions on state affairs. But they must watch what they say on security and North Korea in sensitive times like these, when the president, party, government and military have to send a unified message to North Korea and the world. Otherwise, they are in danger of sending the wrong message.
Nam also said the ruling party won’t push for passage of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement without prior bipartisan agreement. That, too, is a comment unfit for a senior member of the ruling party. The leadership’s diminishing authority, self-serving media appeals and repeated displays of a rift within the party can all backfire in public distrust and apathy. The party should stop playing around and get its act together before they are booed off the stage.