A wake-up call
Kim Chong-in, an outsider recruited to temporarily head the Minjoo Party of Korea, was given full authority to nominate candidates for the main opposition party and spearhead the campaign leading up to the general election in April. The future of the opposition party is now in Kim’s hands.
Kim has taken steps unorthodox for the liberal party. On the March 1 Independence Movement Day, he said the conditions are not right to oppose the “comfort women” compensation deal reached by the governments of Korea and Japan. His remark is discordant with the opposition party, which had claimed the deal was humiliating and invalid. His maverick ways have created a stir within the party.
Moon Jae-in, the former party head who handpicked the economist-turned-politician to replace him, seemed a little disgruntled. But still, there was no sign of outright uproar against the party leader’s voice.
The nomination process could prove more radical. Han Myeong-sook, who headed the main opposition during the general election four years ago, had recruited many hard-line activists from labor, civilian and activist groups as candidates for proportional representatives. They stood at the forefront in hard-line antigovernment protests and often disrupted legislative activities.
Kim is expected to replace long-term lawmakers and recruit experts from various fields. He has already invited Kim Hyun-jong, the former trade minister under the Roh Moo-hyun administration who initiated the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement talks.
Kim’s experiment could help chart a new course for the Minjoo Party. Once the members are replaced with fresh faces, the party will no longer be able to be so knee-jerk in its opposition. Even when it does have something to oppose, the party’s rationale and actions won’t likely be as rigid and forceful as in the past.
Voters are coming to view the party in a more favorable light. They are welcoming its transformation into a more flexible and practical party. It is a relief to see a competitive opposition develop ahead of the election. Kim’s bold experiment should be a wake-up call for the ruling Saenuri Party still fighting amongst itself, as well as the splinter opposition People’s Party.