Division not an option for SaenuriThe Saenuri Party has elected a new leadership led by Hwang Woo-yea, the new chairman of the ruling party, ending an emergency council led by Park Geun-hye. The party launched the emergency council last December after crushing defeats in local elections in June 2010 and the Seoul mayoral by-election last October. After Park took the helm of the party, it bounced back and won a majority in the April 11 legislative election. The ruling party’s remarkable turnaround, however, owed more to opponents’ demerits - such as the below-the-belt rhetoric resorted to by Kim Yong-min - than to its own merits.
As the coalition between the Democratic United Party and the Unified Progressive Party trembles as a result of the UPP’s crisis over a primary rigging scandal, the Saenuri Party is enjoying a new-found dominance. But the party has a rugged road ahead due to the exposure of corruption by President Lee Myung-bak’s aides and the continuing revelations about the Prime Minister’s Office’s illegal spying on rivals and critics of the president.
Externally, a global economic crisis is looming due to the continuing fiscal crisis in Europe, and internally, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un regime has not given up its belligerent provocations. Despite its slim majority in the Assembly, the ruling party is faced with substantial challenges from the opposition party after the parliamentary procedures have been altered.
The ruling party must weather all challenges ahead of the presidential election in December. It has experienced internal fission several times in the past as exemplified by the sharp confrontation between Kim Young-sam, Rhee In-je and Lee Hoi-chang in 1997 and the massive internal division that resulted from the pro-Lee Myung-bak faction’s “massacre” of pro-Park Geun-hye loyalists in nominations for the election of representatives of the 18th National Assembly.
Now the opposition camp is even discussing the possibility of a joint government based on an unconditional coalition. If the Saenuri Party wants to retain power, it must first achieve internal unity by reminding itself of the painful lessons of the past. When taking the element of “responsible politics” into account, it’s natural for pro-Park forces to take the strategic posts of chairman and floor leader. Yet they must not surrender to the temptations of self-serving politics. The pro-Park faction must listen to the voices of the pro-Lee faction to help the party as a whole play an appropriate role. The party cannot afford the luxury of division anymore.