Opposition needs new styleDemocratic Party Chairman Kim Han-gill made the right move in accepting the president’s invitation and attending the New Year’s meeting at the Blue House. He put aside ill feelings toward the president to make a proper presence at the event as the leader of the main opposition.
But along with such necessary political gestures, the DP really must regain its sense of balance and play the role of the main opposition party.
The DP spent the entirety of last year dogging the government and fighting with the ruling party over allegations the state intelligence agency meddled in the 2012 presidential race. As a result, its political achievements so far have been the reform of laws regarding the National Intelligence Service. But the function and reform of the state spy agency cannot be the single political issue in Korea.
The DP is the largest mainstream opposition, with 127 members of the 300-seat legislative. But it walked out of the Assembly and set up tents outside to protest whenever it clashed with the ruling party. We should have no more of this sort of immaturity from the DP.
Despite criticism, the DP resorts to extreme protests instead of dialogue because of its heritage, with many members being former student activists and participants in the democratization movement against past authoritarian regimes.
Student democratization movements played a major role in advancing the country’s democracy. But they are no longer needed in today’s political environment, long past the era of such autocracies. Demagogy has, to some extent, played a part in the activist democracy movement.
Because of its old practices, the DP leadership has been blamed for the minority of voices in its party who have joined with those who have questioned the legitimacy of the results of the last presidential election.
Mass movement-style protests remain the DP’s political habit, and a weapon it likes to wield even after suffering two major defeats in legislative and presidential elections in 2012.
The DP should be gripped with a sense of urgency from its poor approval ratings, which hover at one-third of the ruling party’s and just half of the still nonexistent party soon to be started by independent lawmaker Ahn Cheol-soo.
In his New Year’s address, Kim urged his party to be reborn. He promised a complete makeover through daring changes. We anticipate the DP will finally take off its old activist clothing and put on a new style: stable, sensible and balanced attire for the next year.