A long way to goKim Chong-in, the recruited interim leader of the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea, decided to remain in the liberal party despite a public face-off with the opposition’s hard-line faction. Kim’s sense of entitlement to a proportional representative seat that would ensure him another term in the legislature after the April 13 election triggered uproar within the party, forcing the economist-turned-politician to leave the party.
But Kim was persuaded to stay by former party leader Moon Jae-in and continue with his campaign to reinvent the party with a more centrist orientation. As the latest fiasco suggests, the work of wiping out the factional struggle, as well as the stubborn adherence to the student activist and democratic movement roots of the party, could be a lengthy uphill battle.
The mainstream faction, with allegiance to the former and deceased President Roh Moo-hyun, had condoned Kim’s nomination tactics — shunning the tradition of recruiting left-leaning activists and instead picking moderate figures with expertise in various fields regardless of their ideological backgrounds. But the mainstream group raised a clamor as soon as the nomination list was finalized, and took concerted action against the leader.
Standing at the forefront were senior members of the party executive committees when Moon was head of the party. Former lawmakers and statesmen during the Roh administration also joined the chorus condemning Kim, with former Justice Minister Kang Geum-sil calling him a “crazy old man.”
But their fury was suddenly silenced by Moon upon realizing there would be no better alternative to save the party. Kim also had included several activists from civilian groups in the proportional representative list. Once the election season is over, the faction may break its feigned peace, and the revolt against the leadership may renew. Even though many of Roh’s hard-line followers were excluded, most of the Moon lineage made the candidacy list.
Many key members remain in the party’s central committee. Kim’s status would be threatened if they join forces again. Reform is never easy. Kim should have been more subtle. He should have left others to nominate him for the proportional placement instead of self-naming. Reform in the main opposition is important because its old, contentious ways have undermined state affairs. Kim must prove that his reform drive is not motivated by self-interest, but by the party’s.
JoongAng Ilbo, March 24, Page 30