Dealing with DUP divisions

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Dealing with DUP divisions

“Progressive Action” is a reform-minded group within the main opposition Democratic United Party that’s led by lawmakers in their 40s. They have announced that they’re going to dissolve in order to set an example in ending factional politics. Its members are referred to as the “486 generation” because they’re in their 40s, participated in the student democracy movement in the 1980s, and were born in the 1960s. DUP Representative Woo Sang-ho, who acted as the group’s representative, said Progressive Action will fold because the DUP can’t reform without first divorcing itself from factional politics.

Five days earlier, another group of first-term lawmakers also called for an end to such politics because they breed closed-door decision-making and unfair power sharing. They claimed they would resist any internal groups or demands by top leaders to form ranks behind them.

Factional divisions have been dogging the DUP for a long time. The emergency leadership committee established after the party’s defeat in the December presidential election has often discussed the problem. Moon Hee-sang, the head of the committee, pointed out that factional bickering is like fighting over the helm of a small boat. He likened it to the selfish, foolish act of trying to retrieve a refrigerator or a TV set in the aftermath of a tsunami.

Although all the party members agree on the need to end the destructive legacy of such practices, few steps have been taken toward real change. Rival factions offer different diagnoses as to why the party lost the presidential election. The call to end factional politics is also resented as an attack led by one particular faction against the other. Some within the DUP lament that they may never be able to fix the internal rifts.

The formation of groups is an inevitable phenomenon in any community. People tend to be drawn to others who share their particular beliefs and values. But this tendency can jeopardize the broader community when one group isolates and ignores another to get ahead, placing its own interests before the common one.

It’s a bigger problem for the DUP because it lacks strong leadership. Few have been able to retain the top post for long. During the 14 months since the party was established, its leader has been replaced six times. The tail has been wagging the dog and it’s jeopardizing a party that produced two liberal presidents - Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun. The DUP must be resolute and move on from its self-destructive ways. The liberal opposition needs to be restored, or there will be no one to keep President Park Geun-hye in check.
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