[Viewpoint] GNP puts its head in the sandThe Grand National Party is called a traitor to the nation by the opposition camp for railroading through a free trade deal with the United States. Members of the main opposition Democratic Party and splinter Democratic Labor Party are on the streets accusing the ruling party of selling off the country’s economic sovereignty to the U.S. GNP lawmakers are being ridiculed and may face a backlash from voters in next April’s legislative elections.
Most politicians would be highly offended if accused of selling out their own country, but the GNP leadership has, for some reason, decided to keep on the kid gloves. GNP Chairman Hong Joon-pyo, notorious for his directness in speaking his mind, has turned genteel, if not demure. After the riotous ratification of the FTA in the National Assembly, Hong posted a spare comment on Twitter: “It was an inevitable choice for the benefit of the nation.”
The party’s floor leader, Hwang Woo-yea, who orchestrated the legislative process, is also keeping mum. In an executive meeting, Representative Lee Kyung-jae pointed out that it is wrong to act self-consciously after passing the bill for just reasons. Yet the leadership prefers to keep a very low profile until the controversy over the FTA fades away. How long that will take is anybody’s guess. The opposition camp is enjoying a field day bombarding their sheepish and defensive rivals. Its street rallies have turned bolder and more raucous.
In a recent lecture, Hong said the party’s biggest weakness is that it lacks passion and the stomach to fight. He hit the nail on the head, although Hong is hardly the right person to point it out. While taking the position that a free trade agreement with the U.S. will benefit the country’s economy and its future can hardly be described as an act of national betrayal, no one from the ruling party is willing to make that argument or even lift a hand to defend the ratification. If they believed in the necessity of the deal, what are they so scared of? They may want to avoid further provoking the DP and prolonging its protests for fear of jeopardizing the passage of next year’s budget. But that’s a cowardly and irresponsible attitude unworthy of a ruling party.
Who can have faith in that kind of party? GNP representatives seem only to care about keeping their seats, regardless of what happens to their party. Instead of putting on their thinking caps to find ways to restore the credibility of the party, they are busy touring their constituencies in hopes of corralling future votes. Some spend time in community centers massaging senior citizens, some throw free lectures for students and parents to share their expertise in oversees education, and some mingle with citizens in local pubs.
They must be forgetting that if their ship sinks, they all drown. No matter how they try to score points in their constituencies, if an anti-ruling party wave sweeps beyond the capital and across the nation, they cannot win in the next election. The imperative is to save the party, not chase after individual seats. Yet the party’s members are indulging in silly moves that only make their party look worse.
An aide of GNP Representative Choi Ku-sik has been arrested on suspicion of orchestrating a large-scale distributed denial-of-service attack against the National Election Commission’s Web site on the day of the Seoul mayoral by-election to throw off young voters, many of whom were pro-opposition, from voting.
After that report, Hong told party members not to issue any formal statements because the party has no association with the crime. Once again, he has exemplified the party’s collective problem of extreme selfishness, irresponsibility and its tendency to bury its head in the sand. After all, a member of the party has allegedly been tied to a crime against democracy. The GNP has no hope with such a leadership.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Lee Sang-il