[Viewpoint] A butterfly collectionThe Democratic Unity Party is not the only group welcoming the collapse of the Grand National Party. Former Seoul National University Prof. Park Se-il’s camp is eager to take advantage of its crumbling. He has pledged to establish a party by the end of February and nominate candidates in over 200 districts for the legislative election slated for April. His goal is to win 70 to 80 seats in the National Assembly.
Park’s justification to start a new party is that the existing political establishment has no hope and the citizens want a brand new type of politics. That’s why he named the party “Thinking People.” According to Park, Thinking People will be a centrist party that embraces both reform-minded conservatives and reasonable liberals. The party will be jointly operated by leaders who represent different ideologies, regions, classes and generations to pursue true politics for the people.
The cause is noble indeed. Everyone will welcome such a party. However, the people are not buying the claims made by the so-called Thinking People. There are discrepancies between their advertisements and their substance. Right before the Lunar New Year, six former assembly members joined Thinking People: Kim Kyung-jae, Park Kye-dong, Lee Shin-bom, Lee Won-bok, Bae Il-do and Yun Kun-young. They said at a news conference that the exaggerated gestures of reforms attempted by both the Grand National Party and the Democratic Unity Party have failed to convince people that innovative politics will be the end result. What are their credentials as they criticize both the ruling and opposition parties and advocate a new type of politics?
Aside from Kim, the remaining five members were affiliated with the Grand National Party. Yun had run as a GNP candidate in the general election in 2008 but was not elected. The remaining four failed to win the party’s nomination for candidacies. Park had applied for a nomination in the by-election in the Bundang B district in April 2011 but failed. The ruling party frowned at his attack on Kang Jae-sup, who competed against him for the nomination.
Bae left the ruling party in October 2011 and ran as an independent in the Seoul mayoral by-election, winning 0.38 percent of votes. Lee Won-bok left the party immediately after not receiving a nomination in 2008. Lee Shin-bom has moved from the Unification Democratic Party to the New Korea Party to the Grand National Party to the People First Party and then back to the Grand National Party, only to leave it again. He supported Kim Young-sam, Lee Hoi-chang, Rhee In-je and Lee Myung-bak before joining Park Se-il’s new party.
Kim Kyung-jae was a member of Kim Dae-jung’s Peace and Democratic Party and the Democratic Party. He abandoned the Democratic Party after failing to win a nomination in 2008. In 2010, he ran in the gubernatorial election in South Jeolla as a candidate of the Party for Peace and Democracy, founded by Hahn Hwa-kap, and won 7.4 percent of votes. Last April, he ran as an independent in the by-election in Suncheon, South Jeolla, and came in sixth among seven candidates with 3.9 percent of the vote.
When they entered the news conference, Park introduced them as people “who have lengthy experience in politics and made contributions to political development.” If that is Park’s idea of a sales pitch, Thinking People is not very promising.
Park is working with Chang Ki-pyo, chairman of the neo-liberal Green Social Democratic Party, to found a new party. Chang made a name as a democracy fighter but is considered a loner with few political achievements. After the failure of the People’s Party in 1992, he has founded over 10 parties by himself, and each one has failed. Young voters in their 20s to 40s are not aware of his pursuit of social democracy. Realistically, his political destructive power is nearly zero.
It seems that the Thinking People party has collected political wanderers who were not accepted at the Grand National Party or the Democratic Unity Party. Some feel that Thinking People’s strategy is to exploit those who did not secure nominations from the two major parties. The first event organized by the new party was a news conference of bygone politicians.
But Park is a bluffer. He boasts that Ahn Cheol-soo, the rising political star who is a professor at Seoul National University, will join the party in the end. But before talking about how people should think, the founders and members of the Thinking People need to think about their own identity. They should reflect on how they will honestly be received by the world - because when the flower is beautiful, it will attract butterflies.
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Sang-il