[Viewpoint] They call this reform?It is an abuse of power for the emergency leadership council of the ruling Grand National Party to tell Representative Choi Ku-sik to leave the party. Choi’s chauffeur has been implicated in the cyberattack on the National Election C0ommission’s Web site on the day of the Seoul mayoral by-election in October.
The ruling party has a nine-member ethics committee, and five of its members are from outside the party. In order to reprimand Choi, the emergency leadership should have referred the case to its ethics committee.
Then, the ethics committee could listen to the explanations provided by Choi and determine whether to take disciplinary action or not and what any punishment should be. Korea University professor Ha Kyung-hyo, vice chairman of the ethics committee, pointed out that the decision of the emergency leadership council was not normal. Is the ethics committee a mere puppet of the party? Where are the principles that emergency leader Park Geun-hye supposedly advocates?
The Republican Party of the United States lost power after the Watergate scandal brought down President Richard Nixon. The Democratic Party lost power after President Bill Clinton’s sex scandal. However, the parties did not demand Nixon or Clinton withdraw from their parties. They embraced their members.
In the whimsical political climate of Korea, we cannot expect such a sense of joint responsibility. However, it doesn’t take all that much seriousness to allow a member of your own party to explain his actions or wait for all the facts. Choi claimed that he was not aware of what his chauffeur had done, but he would take moral responsibility after an investigation by prosecutors. Nevertheless, the emergency leadership simply killed the political career of a colleague who had served as a member of the National Assembly for eight years. Is the emergency council an executor of reform or just an executioner?
Lee Sang-don, a member of the council, is head of a subcommittee on reform of the party’s nomination process. He oversees the task of drafting a fair system. Whether or not the party gives a nomination to a politician is a job entrusted to the Nomination Committee. However, Lee acts as if he has the final decision. He demands a certain faction not run in the next legislative election, and a notable attack was made on Lee Jae-oh, calling him responsible for the failure of national affairs as a key figure in the current administration.
In fact, Lee Jae-oh is accountable for a considerable part of the confusion in state affairs. He led the “nomination massacre” on the pro-Park Geun-hye faction in 2008 and planted the seeds of internal discord within the ruling party. As if to pay the price for his misdeeds, he was defeated in that election. However, in the by-election of 2010, he made a comeback. He brought a rare triumph to the party. The Nomination Committee will determine whether to nominate him as a ruling party candidate. The committee will drop him if his faults are too serious, and the voters will make the final choice if he runs.
Lee Sang-don helped Lee Hoi-chang, who left the GNP and ran as an independent in the 2007 presidential election. From the Grand National Party’s perspective, he aided and abetted a person who betrayed the party. But now, he’s become an occupying army, ignoring procedures and demanding certain politicians not run. Is Lee Sang-don an executor of reform or just an executioner?
In 1992, when Kim Jong-in was presidential secretary for economic affairs for President Roh Tae-woo, he received 210 million won ($180,000) from Ahn Yeong-mo, the president of Donghwa Bank. Until he was released on probation, he served two years and six months in prison. Representing the Democratic Justice Party, Kim served eight years as a member of the National Assembly. In the 17th National Assembly, he was elected a proportional representative as a member of the Millennium Democratic Party founded by former President Kim Dae-jung. Until recently, he was considered a mentor to Ahn Cheol-soo. Now, he has taken sides with Park Geun-hye and speaks of promoting new faces. Is Kim Jong-in an executor of reform - or should he be a target of reform?
Park Geun-hye’s emergency leadership council was launched with great urgency. It is a significant experiment in the reform of the ruling party as well as the overall politics of the country. However, the council itself has become suspect when it comes to ethics and principle.
The figures being targeted are accused of misdeeds much less serious than those committed by some of the council members. If someone who served a prison term for taking bribes or someone who hopped between different parties want recommendations, what would the emergency leadership council say?
The GNP wants Park Geun-hye to be its Joan of Arc once again. But she needs to reform her own emergency leadership council first.
*The writer is an editorial writer for the Joongang Ilbo.
By Kim Jin