In pursuit of clarityClarity is a virtue in political language. Common people can fall victim to the words of a political leader. Democratic United Party presidential candidate Moon Jae-in finally gained long-awaited support from former independent candidate Ahn Cheol-soo, who bowed out of the race after negotiations to establish a joint front and single candidate between the two broke down late last month. After a highly publicized dinner, they told reporters they will join forces to win the Dec. 19 presidential election. They also said they agreed to work together after the election. Ahn joined Moon on the campaign trail in Busan.
Skeptics mock the union as Ahn reluctantly giving in to the persistent courting of Moon. But the election is a political game and to win, contenders often need to make strategic choices.
How the two got together is not that important. But the two hastily reconciled without narrowing the differences that led to the breakup of earlier merger talks and are urging voters to stand united behind mainstream liberal candidate Moon. They congratulate one another as if they have reached a grand deal after merely agreeing to reduce the number of lawmakers.
They left questions unanswered in a number of areas, such as their stances on the Northern Limit Line, policy on North Korea, including conditions to resume tourism in Mount Kumgang, inter-Korean issues such as a naval base in Jeju under construction and diplomacy, and trade issues such as the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. A leader’s perspective on territory, North Korea, security and foreign affairs is associated with the president’s primary role to safeguard national viability and public safety as defined by the Constitution. If a president’s language on defense and security is equivocal, people’s lives could be in jeopardy.
Moon, in a TV debate with Ahn on Nov. 21, said he disagreed with Ahn on demanding an apology from North Korea to resume tourism to Mount Kumgang that was halted after a South Korean tourist was killed and assurance from North Korea to honor the current maritime border in order to create a joint fishing zone. Moon said the two Koreas should renew talks without any conditions attached. Ahn said without apology that South Koreans won’t likely to go to North Korea even if the tourism is resumed. Moon wants to resume the tourism program and joint west coastal development projects without demanding anything from North Korea while Ahn maintains that Pyongyang must accept South Korea’s terms on security.
Is Moon willing to accept or meet halfway Ahn’s ideas and thoughts or is he planning to stick to his platform? Both candidates will have to answer these questions. With Ahn at his back, Moon now has a bigger chance of becoming the next president. He will have to address the public in clearer language while he still has the chance.