No room for rhetoric in DUPThe newly realigned Democratic Unity Party has finalized its leadership under the helm of former Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook, while actor-turned-politician Moon Sung-keun, who represents the civilian group Power to the People, claimed the second-most senior spot in the new opposition coalition. Moon’s ascendancy reaffirms the strengthening of civilian power in politics, while the way the vote was conducted online and via cell phones points to the DUP’s embrace of modern technology to lure younger voters. And with Han, who served as prime minister under late leader Roh Moo-hyun, at the forefront, Roh loyalists have returned to the political center stage after four years in exile.
The DUP’s primary has generated much interest due to the high level of civilian participation, with some 640,000 civilians voting through digital media. The party plans to invite them to join as members ahead of this year’s legislative and presidential elections, where greater openness and connectedness with the electorate will probably continue as they become keywords in Korean politics.
However, the party’s new leadership faces an important test as voters are keen to determine if it is qualified to govern the country. Its predecessor, the Democratic Party, ruled the country for a decade under late presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun. But as an opposition party, it often adopted contrary or radical policies and sided with extremists on protests that threatened social stability. Instead of acting as a responsible political force to balance state governance, it stood opposed to almost everything that President Lee Myung-bak and the ruling Grand National Party proposed.
The party tried at every turn to obstruct the recently approved free trade agreement with the United States then demanded the release of former DP member Chung Bong-ju, who was imprisoned after mocking the president on a popular podcast and spreading “false rumors” that Lee had been involved in a stock manipulation scheme while running for president. Meanwhile, the DP began promoting a universal welfare system as its party platform but failed to elaborate on how it aimed to finance the project.
State governance cannot be sustained by rhetoric. It must be backed by specific financing and policy plans. The new DUP must present detailed action plans on creating jobs, resolving social and corporate inequalities, and boosting welfare through feasible means. As such, the DUP will serve as an interesting experiment.