The opposition dichotomy

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The opposition dichotomy

The main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea’s floor leader Lee Jong-kul denounced the Park Geun-hye administration for stopping all operations at the Kaesong Industrial Complex and demanded her foreign policy aides be heavily punished for the drastic action. In a speech at the National Assembly on Wednesday, Lee also vowed to reopen the industrial park in North Korea - the last vestige of inter-Korean engagement - after enacting special legislation aimed at putting the complex back on track.

Lee’s position on the shutdown of the park is in sharp contrast with that of Kim Chong-in, the party’s interim chairman. Former assistant secretary of foreign affairs Lee Soo-hyuck, who was recruited as a “security expert” to the party, also said that the government’s hard-line policy toward North Korea is unavoidable and, therefore, cannot be criticized. But those voices were completely omitted from Lee’s address yesterday.

We understand the opposition’s emphasis on the need for dialogue - instead of sanctions against the North - when taking its ideological background into account. But the opposition has put the cart before the horse.

The government’s drastic decision to pull all South Korean staff from the complex resulted from Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test and long-range missile launch. Then the opposition first should have held the North accountable for the alarming developments on the peninsula and urge the government to come up with rational reactions. That’s what a responsible opposition should do. But floor leader Lee devoted most of his speech to condemning the government with overly provocative language, without even making any comments on Pyongyang’s actions.

Recently, the unfeasible argument that South Korea also must have nuclear weapons is gaining momentum. That reflects the deep frustration and nervousness of the people who must confront a totally incomprehensible reality in which the country cannot counter the North’s nuclear attacks even when it boasts an economy over 40 times larger.

If Lee were a responsible floor leader, he should have presented realistic solutions to help ease the growing public anxiety in his speech.

But we could not find any, except for raw attacks against the government with regard to the shutdown of the park and deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or Thaad, system in the South.

When national security is at stake, political parties must pursue consistency. The Minjoo Party must hammer out realistic - and unified - solutions to the security crisis. If confusion prevails in the opposition, it cannot become the ruling party.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 18, Page 34

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