A political migratory bird
In the last presidential election, Yoon supported Moon Jae-in and eloquently expressed his respect and admiration for him. In a televised speech supporting Moon, he described him as “a person who can persuade someone like myself, who has been on the opposite side my whole life, in two hours.” Yoon’s speech was determined. It seemed like something of a swan song because of his age, 74, and the language he used.
Yoon’s return was also unexpected because his parting with Ahn two years ago was not amicable. Ahn said, “If you call Yoon my mentor, I would have some 300 mentors, including Kim Je-dong and Kim Yeo-jin.” Mentorship is Yoon’s pride. Ahn’s dismissive comparison must have been insulting. Yoon and Ahn collaborated on the Youth Concert lectures for a long time. So Ahn’s comment was perceived as an act that prioritized his political interest over loyalty.
Yoon’s political resume is messy and his career untidy. Why did he return to Ahn? What was he promised for going back? Having studied the arts of administration, does he desire to experiment with his theories? Is he a strategist searching for a master? Are his transformations a matter of mere habit? Has his patience triumphed over an insult? However you answer any of those questions, he can not dodge the label of being a “political migratory bird.”
Yoon has chosen his stage. The June 4 local election will be his springboard. He said, “Ahn’s emergence is destiny.” Ahn said he would “bring rational conservatives and insightful progressives together.” His use of language sounds familiar. It is a repetition of the sentiments he declared when he ran for president last year.
Last year, Yoon criticized Ahn saying he “uses sentimental language and speaks ambiguous and abstract words.” Ahn’s words haven’t changed. His call for a new type of politics requires some specific alternatives but Ahn’s politics lack concrete details.
Political distrust is the main source of energy for Ahn. It is the engine of Yoon’s worldly wisdom. The idea of a need for a new form of politics is attractive. Former Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik said that if we had a system to dissolve the National Assembly, we should dissolve it and have the citizens approve it again. The comment boosted his popularity. Now, he is a promising Seoul mayoral candidate for the Saenuri Party.
Ahn continues to promise new politics, and the paradoxes keep rolling in. The ruling party is already criticizing Yoon’s return to his side. The core of the controversy is his parting ways with Moon Jae-in.
He has praised Moon for being selfless, promising democratic leadership and being a suitable figure to overcome crises and integrate the nation. So many people wonder why he parted with Moon. Was he disappointed by Moon, or did he not get along with Moon’s people?
The kick-starting of Ahn Cheol-soo’s politics owes everything to the struggles of the Democratic Party. It is intended to frustrate Moon Jae-in’s power. Moon earned 48 percent of the vote in the 2012 presidential election. After Lee Hoi-chang lost his first presidential bid, he dominated the opposition. Moon wasted the last year struggling with narrow-minded political controversies.
Yoon’s distance from Moon’s camp is ambiguous. He said that Moon never asked him to help win the election but to help him prepare his administration. His explanation is off focus. The Moon Jae-in camp is watching him closely.
A politician needs to clearly explain his motives and decisions. That is a prerequisite for someone claiming to represent a new type of politics. If the reasoning is not convincing, he will be branded as a traitor or opportunist.
Ahn and Yoon are back together, but we wonder how long the romance will last. Ahn has a history of losing allies. Last May, Ahn asked Korea University honorary professor Choi Jang-jip to help him. The acclaimed scholar accepted the offer.
But the two parted after 80 days over differences in ideology. Some said that Ahn is stingy when asking help of big shots. Yoon claims that Ahn has become focused and strong. He is suggesting that he is not be another Choi Jang-jip.
Yoon has presented his strategy for a new party by having Ahn use his past concessions as leverage. That puts pressure on Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon. Harping on concessions made in the past looks a lot like the backroom dealings of old-fashioned power politics. It is not easy to come up with a brand new form of politics.
A strategist should be a politician’s secret weapon. Yoon has been exposed. It is uncertain whether he can shine like in his heyday. It was the general election of 2000 and Kim Yoon-hwan, Lee Gi-taek and Lee Soo-seong did not get party nominations. Yoon played a leading role at the time. Yoon Yeo-joon’s signature is the balancing act. The success of Ahn Cheol-soo’s new politics depends on it.
*The author is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Park Bo-gyoon