Moon on the defensive

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Moon on the defensive

In a press conference Tuesday, Minjoo Party Chairman Moon Jae-in promised to completely reshape the fractured main opposition party and vowed to step down as soon as its campaign committee is ready to take charge. The core words in his speech were “change” and “resignation.”

However, Moon didn’t change much. Granted, both ruling and opposition parties are engrossed in fierce attacks against each other with three months left before the April 13 general election. Moon’s speech was full of inflammatory remarks about the Park Geun-hye administration. He attacked the government for a “totally failed economy, a collapsed democracy, a vegetative ruling party, and promoting a single history textbook aimed at praising our past dictatorships and the Japanese legacy of the past.”

Despite the government’s underperformance on the economy and relatively lousy communication skills, denouncing it without tangible policy alternatives can hardly impress the public. Moody’s upgraded Korea’s sovereign credit rating to Aa2 last December, putting it on a par with six advanced nations, including the United States. If our economy had crashed as Moon claimed, would that be likely? Our democracy, too, is solid enough to take any barbed words. With regard to the controversy over history textbooks, we have to wait until the textbook in question is published.

Moon also criticized the government for “bartering the sex slave issue for money.” That hints at the possibility of a breach of the Dec. 28 agreement between Seoul and Tokyo if Moon is ever elected president. The attack is reminiscent of the party’s threat four years ago to scrap the Korea-U.S. FTA if it took power.

Moon steadfastly opposed four bills for labor reform and two for economic revitalization. He denounced the government for its approach to the North Korea nuclear threat, deepening poverty among the aged and alarmingly low birthrates.

The Minjoo Party must finally deal with its problematic pro-Roh Moo-hyun faction, which Moon leads. Since the 2004 general election, that group with strong ideological backgrounds has been sticking to extreme hardline stances irrespective of calls from a rival faction to calm down. Now lawmakers are defecting one after another to a party led by Ahn Cheol-soo.

Moon has been inviting new faces to join the party. If he really wants them to help reshape the party, the pro-Roh group must back off in the nomination process. Moon promised to entrust all his power to the campaign committee. Voters will watch to see if he keeps that promise.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 20, Page 30

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