The fall of the House of Roh

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The fall of the House of Roh

The main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea has dropped six-term lawmaker and former Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan - the iconic leader of the pro-Roh Moo-hyun faction - and five-term legislator Lee Mi-kyung from nominations for the April 13 general election. Earlier, the opposition eliminated another former prime minister, Han Myeong-sook, and other two senior lawmakers, Moon Hee-sang and Yoo Ihn-tae, from the same group.

Yet the drastic decision by the party’s interim leader Kim Chong-in can hardly translate into a complete retreat of the pro-Roh faction, because representatives Jeon Hae-cheol, Kim Kyeong-hyeop and Rhee Mok-hee - all of whom have close ties with former Chairman Moon Jae-in - were either nominated or face nomination races.

Nevertheless, Kim Chong-in’s dropping of 13 core members of the pro-Roh group cannot be dismissed, as it has significant repercussions on our political landscape, not just on the Minjoo Party. The dramatic shift symbolizes the withdrawal of the faction, which often sparked controversy over its dominance of the opposition camp. The group is poised to fade into the mists of time.

The pro-Roh group emerged as a reformist group in the beginning, as witnessed in its ambitious drive to enact major reform bills under the Roh administration. However, their energetic push for reinvention of the government ended up losing public trust due to their obsessive dichotomy of good and evil. That’s why the two parties - the Uri Party and the Democratic Party - led by the group saw crushing defeats in two presidential elections and by-elections. But they maintained dominance over the party based on their unrivalled ability to unite. Whenever the rest of the opposition attacked them, they simply rebutted by attributing their actions to their desire to get nominated for elections.

The pro-Roh faction’s might went up in smoke after outsider Kim Chong-in took the helm of the embattled party - not because of his determination but due to a huge public backlash. Former Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan had to be abandoned despite his relatively good performance as a legislator. Kim’s new leadership has to confront the possibility of a crushing defeat if he had nominated Lee.

Public outrage is powerful. Both the ruling and opposition parties must thoroughly revamp themselves and compete solely based on policies and fresh faces, not on political maneuvers rooted in factionalism and regionalism. Otherwise, they cannot avoid a shameful retreat from the political scene.

JoongAng Ilbo, Mar. 15, Page 30

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