Don’t obsess over petty battlesThe opposition Democratic Party continued its outdoor rallies in its makeshift headquarters at Seoul City Hall Plaza yesterday, trying to gather public support for its national campaign to “restore democracy” and “reform the National Intelligence Service,” which the DP believes meddled in the December presidential election by posting pro-Park Geun-hye messages on the Internet. “The [ruling] Saenuri Party is mocking the people, the National Assembly, our democracy and history,” said DP Chairman Kim Han-gill. Jun Byung-hun, floor leader of the party, said, “The Saenuri has driven us to this plaza. It’s entirely up to the ruling party how long we’ll stage outdoor rallies.”
The conflict over the legislative probe into the spy agency’s alleged intervention in the election and into the NIS chief’s revelation of a transcript of the conversation between President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il from the 2007 summit in Pyongyang has now turned into a full-fledged war. But the ruling party is engrossed in denouncing the opposition for “dismissing ordinary citizens’ livelihoods” while the opposition party is only interested in gaining as much support from anti-Park forces as possible to ratchet up their protest, turning a deaf year to criticisms that it is confusing partisan activities with social movements.
It’s fortunate that a voice calling for negotiations is being heard in both parties. Some lawmakers of the ruling party argued it should assure the DP that two core suspects - former NIS chief Won Sei-hoon and former Seoul Metropolitan Police Commissioner Kim Yong-pan - will be witnesses in the legislative probe, while some moderates from the opposition have also raised criticisms of the party’s outdoor rally strategy.
Both sides should rekindle the tiny seed of negotiation and compromise, which is the only way to get off the path of mutual destruction. According to the latest opinion poll, the share of independents in our society has reached 43 percent - close to half of the people and the highest figure since a December 2003 poll. Five months after that poll, the then-newly formed Uri Party garnered a landslide victory in the 2004 general elections - a good reminder to both the ruling and opposition parties of the possibilities for yet another gigantic political realignment, this time most likely by Ahn Cheol-soo, a dark horse in the last presidential election.
Both parties would be wise to step back. The Saenuri must not make the mistake of focusing on the small battles so much it forgets the bigger issue, while the DP should remember that the usefulness of outdoor rallies has already expired.