A haphazard mergerThere is another realignment of political parties taking place in Korea. The main opposition Democratic Party attempted to merge with the Civil Unity Party at a national convention yesterday held in conjunction with the Federation of Korean Trade Unions and other liberal civic groups. The current DP was established after the Uri Party, which had been created by Roh Moo-hyun, was dismantled ahead of the presidential and legislative elections of 2007 and 2008, respectively. If the merger is finalized, the new integrated party, which would keep the Democratic Party name, would be relaunched with the goal of winning the legislative and presidential elections next year.
The potential formation of the new DP presents a critical question of identity to voters. Opposition forces launched the Uri Party in 2003 by abandoning the existing Democratic Party that had made Roh president. As the Roh administration waned, however, the current DP was formed by dissolving the Uri Party. The new Civil Unity Party was hurriedly created by hardcore liberal members of the Roh Moo-hyun Foundation, including former Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan and former presidential secretary Moon Jae-in.
The potential merger of the DP and the Civil Unity Party is the same as a reunion of the DP, which abandoned Roh, and avid followers of Roh. We wonder if such divergent factions have suddenly changed their views of each other. The inevitable identity crisis has confused the rank and file of the DP to the extent that some used violence to protest the incomprehensible merger.
The opposition camp has been keen to produce unified candidates since the June 2 local elections last year. After winning surprising victories in some constituencies, they moved on to make Park Won-soon the winner of the Oct. 26 Seoul mayoral by-election. Now, ahead of an all-out battle for the legislative and presidential elections next year, they have again chosen the same strategy of a merger. The new DP will most likely attempt to form a coalition with the far-left Unified Progressive Party in next year’s elections.
These days, Korean politics dances to the tune of power-seizing strategies, not policy lines. That only aggravates our already backward political culture. The political engineering we see now is a quick fix to win elections and it is done without consideration of a party’s identity, not to mention respect for the voters.
A change of administration can occur at anytime, but it should happen in a rational manner. If not, the dirty power struggle will break the foundation of democracy.