Time for national transformationThe main opposition Democratic United Party needs to demonstrate its ability and potential to govern and generate social unity. However challenging this may be, it must persuade voters that the party - despite its minority status in the legislature - can govern and run the country well by drawing stability and bipartisan leadership. DUP head Lee Hae-chan partly satisfied the question of whether he is qualified to govern in his National Assembly address.
“The world is facing a major transformation toward a new paradigm. Neoliberalism has become deadlocked by the financial crisis in the U.S. in 2008. In this low-income, high-growth era, we must adopt a mindset and principles suitable for a high-income, low-growth age,” he said, underscoring his grasp of important generational changes and challenges. Although he may differ from Park Geun-hye, the presidential candidate of the ruling party, in his approach, his goals of achieving economic justice, creating more jobs and setting up a successful Korean model of social welfare are more or less the same.
Leaders of both camps have recognized the limits of chasing economic growth at the expense of all else and now see the importance of improving people’s living standards.
If Lee’s party wins the presidential election in December, Lee has pledged to appoint a vice economy minister tasked with creating more jobs. He also vowed to upgrade the Small and Medium Business Administration to the ministerial level so that the government can effectively coordinate public efforts to boost domestic demand and hiring. To reinforce civilian-led public safety, his government will scrap riot police, curb the number of conscripted forces, and redesign the civil defense system with a new emphasis placed on community and solidarity. His idea of refashioning the decades-old security establishment according to social changes and new needs is refreshing and worthy of consideration.
Perhaps less impressive, though, is his lack of honest retrospection in terms of mistakes made and his inability to engage the opposition. His speech was full of language that both defamed and snubbed his rivals. He attacked the prosecution and conservative media for trying to undermine his party, and showed no hint of remorse for the ongoing investigation into shady deals involving billions of won tied to the party’s nomination process.
In politics, one must be ready to dance with the devil in order to achieve grand goals, and Lee needs to learn how to tango.