The promise of the new

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The promise of the new

The New Political Democratic United Party, the provisional English name for the merger of the Democratic Party and supporters of independent lawmaker Ahn Cheol-soo, pursues a line that puts more weight on the traditional values of industrialization and national security than the Democratic Party normally does. The new party plans to reflect relatively conservative political orientations in its platform. It is even considering inviting to its party convention Korean Vietnam War veterans, construction workers in the Middle East, and miners and nurses sent to Germany who contributed to the Miracle on the Han River through their unrivaled diligence and sacrifices in the last century. The DP used to view Korea’s Vietnam War veterans as mercenary puppets of Uncle Sam.

Industrialization and democratization are the two pillars on which the legitimacy of modern Korea rests. As there should be no divide between ruling and opposition parties over national security, the new political group took an appropriate direction. But voters are likely to continue to doubt the DP on the security front. It has been steadfastly negative about the founding of the Republic of Korea in 1948 and industrialization. As seen in the 2012 presidential election, the opposition’s candidate Moon Jae-in skipped paying respects at the tombs of founding father Syngman Rhee and Park Chung Hee, while the ruling party’s candidate Park Geun-hye paid respects at the tombs of Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun, both liberal presidents.

On the security front, too, the DP’s stance raises suspicions. Despite hard evidence, it doesn’t believe North Korea was behind the sinking of our Cheonan warship in March 2010. During the 2012 general election, the party made a comprehensive coalition with the Unified Progressive Party that called for the withdrawal of U.S. Forces in Korea and the dissolution of the Korea-U.S. alliance. In the 2012 presidential elections, Ahn took an opaque attitude toward the sensitive issues of the Cheonan attack and establishment of a naval base on Jeju Island.

The new party will face its internal strains for sure. But it takes pain to shake off the sclerotic, old-fashioned habits of politics. If the party can’t bring something new to the political scene, it will have to dump the promise of “new politics.”

JoongAng Ilbo, March 18, Page 30

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