[Viewpoint] The ruling party’s witch huntThe emergency leadership council of the beleaguered ruling party - now renamed the Saenuri Party - under the helmsmanship of Park Geun-hye is sailing astray. The crew and passengers are starting to question the leadership’s steering capacity. The emergency leadership council has already used up half of its self-appointed time to resurrect the ruling party and set it on a path to win the general election in April.
Kim Chong-in is No. 2 on the emergency council. He brushed aside the possibility of Na Kyung-won running in the April election after she lost the Seoul mayoral by-election, saying it would be “a politically foolish mistake.” Lee Sang-don, a law professor who is also on the council, pitched in, saying a person involved in the Seoul mayoral by-election was among the list of supporters of President Lee Myung-bak who would be encouraged to give way for other candidates in the upcoming election.
But neither of these men possess the understanding of political history, nor the sense of reality, to make such public claims. What about the handful of lawmakers who served in the National Assembly after losing in presidential races? Kim Young-sam, Kim Dae-jung, and Kim Jong-pil, after losing in the 1987 presidential election, were elected to the legislature in the general election of the following year. Had they not run, could they have brought about the Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung administrations? Chung Dong-young, defeated in the 2007 presidential election, is a representative in the legislature. American politicians who lose various primaries or races go on to contend and win seats in Congress.
The Seoul mayoral race was run by the party. Park Geun-hye stood at the forefront to command the election. If Na gets the axe based on her failure to win, so should Park. Kim Chong-in and Lee Sang-don, the emergency council members, lack a political and moral decency toward another member of the party.
Nah has been bruised politically and emotionally by the malicious accusations by the opposition during the campaign that she spent 100 million won ($89,600) on skin care treatments. Instead of words of comfort to her and reprimands to the slanderous offenders, they are making her scars worse. Former Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon lost a referendum over free school lunches because of the same kind of internal party divisions. Voters won’t have faith in someone abandoned by the party.
Thirty-nine-year-old Kim Se-yeon, who is serving his first term in the legislature, has been handpicked by Park as one of the members of the emergency council. He took the podium in a press briefing room to publicly demand older legislators take responsibility for ruining the party. He was more or less taking aim at Lee Jae-oh, the kingmaker within the pro-President Lee faction.
Lee, who is from a southern region, has been elected four times from the Eunpyeong district in Seoul, which is a traditional stronghold of pro-Kim Dae-jung and opposition-minded voters. He could not have won time after time if he had not endeavored to win the hearts of his constituents. He is known for his modest living style. He lives in a small house without expensive furniture. He goes around his town on bicycle.
Not yet 40, Kim Se-yeon is the son of a wealthy entrepreneur-turned-politician and heir to his father’s fortune and company. He is a millionaire and one of richest individuals in the legislature, according to his declaration of personal wealth. He won a seat from Busan in 2008 because his late father made huge donations in the region.
A political novice who sits in the legislature thanks to his father’s reputation is telling a veteran four-term politician not to run. A potted plant bred in a greenhouse is advising a tough old cactus that his time is up. Is there any sense of propriety left in the conservative party?
Representative Lee Jae-oh led the move to cut off loyalists of Park, who competed against Lee Myung-bak in the party’s presidential primary in 2007, from getting nominations during the 2008 legislative election. That witch hunt caused a lasting schism in the party for the past four years. Considering that context, Lee played a big part in this administration’s failure of governance. But Lee has paid his dues by losing an election and bouncing back by winning a by-election. He should be judged in an objective system by a candidacy review committee, not by a first-term lawmaker.
Most of all, the emergency council is wreaking havoc on the social hierarchical order. Kim Chong-in has served time for taking bribes of 210 million won. He and Lee Sang-don have migrated from one party to another. Their targets for removal - Lee Jae-oh, Na Kyung-won - have not gone to prison or bounced around parties. Park suffered retaliation by the pro-Lee faction. But her emergency council is repeating the same tragic mistake.
Park and her emergency council members look away when their actions, comments or decisions cause controversy. Park should have disciplined her crewmen better. That is why her capacity as skipper is being questioned. If she cannot control the ship, how can she be expected to run a state? A party needs a philosophy and identity - not a silly new name.
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Jin