The NPAD’s dirty laundryIn-house trouble at the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy is getting out of hand. A recent executive meeting of the party’s supreme council turned into a TV family drama when Joo Seung-yong and Jung Cheong-rae exchanged words, followed by another member singing about the passing of spring in a farcical effort to lighten the mood.
Before the controversy about the first fiasco died down, we had to witness another episode of factional fighting triggered by party head Moon Jae-in. Moon wrote to executive members that he would not compromise with disruptive people trying to defend their vested interests.
“I won’t surrender to irrational and unreasonable demands in order to sustain the chairman post,” he said. The harsh rhetoric was obviously directed at the faction outside the inner circle of loyalists to the late President Roh Moo-hyun that now represent the party’s mainstream. The non-faction is mostly led by Kim Han-gill and Park Jie-won, loyalists of late President Kim Dae-jung. The memo was leaked to the press.
A meeting the next morning turned into outbursts of sympathetic complaints from the Roh faction, which demanded disciplinary action for those stirring up trouble. They claimed they were being portrayed as running the party unilaterally. About the same time, nonmainstream leaders and former lawmakers met separately in a hotel to criticize the mainstream for treating them as an old guard trying to protect their stake. They demanded that Moon resign to take responsibility for the landslide defeat in the recent by-elections. Clearly, there are two families living under one roof.
The state of the NPAD is pitiful. Despite the falling popularity of the president and ruling party, the NPAD was blitzed in the by-elections. The party should be doing serious soul-searching to pull out of its current crisis and yet it is too busy fighting among itself. No wonder it has been shunned by voters. The party is the main opposition, representing 130 seats in the National Assembly. Its members must somehow try to work out their problems quietly and orderly instead of making an ugly public display. In the April 29 by-elections, the NPAD lost all four available seats. The biggest blow came in Gwangju - the party’s home base - where its candidate lost to former NPAD member Chung Jung-bae, who ran as an independent.
Moon must be accountable for losing the by-election and should have shown leadership to unite the party in the aftermath. But he has made the conflict worse. He failed to discipline Chung and was evasive about his explosive memo. Moon must remember he represents a party, not a faction, and act like a true leader.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 16, Page 30