[Viewpoint] After the DUP’s merger

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[Viewpoint] After the DUP’s merger

You start a flour business and a summer wind blows it all away. You switch to salt, and it begins to rain. Sometimes things don’t work out as you planned.

The Grand National Party is struggling in every way. Just as the ruling party was debating changes and self-reform measures at the end of last year, the links between two of its representatives and the cyberattack against the National Election Commission was revealed. The party nearly collapsed. The Hong Joon-pyo’s leadership was chucked out, and Park Geun-hye became the head of the Emergency Leadership Council.

And then, just as the Emergency Leadership Council showed its determination to launch even more drastic reforms, the “vote-for-cash” incident was exposed. National Assembly speaker Park Hee-tae, who was elected party chairman in 2008, allegedly had envelopes stuffed with cash sent to lawmakers to purchase their votes. There are various guesses as to why GNP lawmaker Koh Seung-duk disclosed the envelope he received (and returned), but as a result, the party is completely ruined.

Sparks from that conflagration spread to the Democratic Unity Party as well. One of the candidates running in the party’s leadership election this weekend allegedly gave cash amounting to 500,000 won ($430) to 5 million won to local branch heads of the party. The party has organized an investigation committee but has yet to verify who distributed the cash and who received it. Co-Chairman Won Hye-young said the party will report the case to the prosecutor for an official investigation once they confirm names.

However, it seems the committee is not likely - and not willing - to reveal the absolute truth. Ahn Myung-sook said suspicions should not be spread based on groundless rumors. Park Young-sun said that the rumors are being used by the ruling party. They are trying to cover up the speculation altogether. What is the true intention of the Democratic Unity Party? They may think there’s no reason to get the prosecutors involved. They only want to benefit from the collapse of the ruling party through the investigation into the votes-for-cash scandal.

Optimism rules in the Democratic Unity Party. Its members are confident they will win a landslide in the general election in April and take power in the presidential election in December now that the ruling GNP is nearly ruined. Many potential candidates wish to run for the DUP in the general election. Some individuals who were close to the GNP have registered with the DUP. The competition to win DUP nominations in promising districts in the capital region is as high as 10 to 1.

The DUP is a combination of the former Democratic Party, supporters of former President Roh Moo-hyun, progressive civil groups and the Federation of Korean Trade Unions. It has attracted many people after successfully uniting different groups and has good prospects for the general election.

The DUP has embraced two of the three incumbent lawmakers who withdraw from the Liberal Forward Party. Lee Yong-hee handed over his district to his son, a member of the DP, and left the Liberal Forward Party. Lee Sang-min failed to win a nomination from the DP in 2008 and moved to the Liberal Forward Party, only to come back again. The DUP has accepted them.

The problem is that the DUP still lacks innovation while it is carrying out its grand merger. Eight incumbent GNP lawmakers have already announced that they would not run this time. Their departure is likely to start many rounds of musical chairs. In contrast, not many lawmakers are willing to give up their vested interests in the DUP. Only two have expressed their intention not to run.

After serving terms representing Gunpo, Gyeonggi, Kim Boo-kyun is changing his district to Daegu. He proposed that those who want to run for president should run in districts where the ruling party is traditionally strong. However, none responded to his call. Senior lawmakers from Honam who are running in Seoul chose the districts they can win easily. Four-time representative Chun Jeong-bae, who resigned to run for the Seoul mayoral by-election, is running again from one of the key districts in Seoul.

If he is elected, he may resign again from the National Assembly to run for Seoul mayor in 2014. “It would be great if I become a mayor. If not, I can still be a member of the National Assembly.” Someone with such a mindset still has a large role in the party. The Democratic Party has put on heft and attracted attention to its leadership election. However, the opposition still has a way to go.

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.


By Lee Sang-il
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