Woo’s challenges aheadThree-term Rep. Woo Sang-ho was elected floor leader of the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea for the first two years of the 20th National Assembly. Earlier, the splinter opposition People’s Party picked veteran lawmaker Park Jie-won as its floor leader, followed by the ruling Saenuri Party’s election on Tuesday of three-term legislator Chung Jin-suk as its own floor leader for the next two years.
Now, the people are watching closely to see if the leaders are willing to do their fair share in a legislature with so many issues at hand.
Woo comes from the student activist-turned-politician lineage of the liberal party and the mainstream faction that is loyal to former presidential candidate Moon Jae-in and deceased President Roh Moo-hyun. Outright loyalists to Moon and Roh had not fielded any candidate other than Woo in his constituency.
Those who were recruited into politics based on their activities as student leaders who fought against the Chun Doo Hwan military regime in 1986 have long dominated the liberal scene and been blamed for the factional struggle due to their die-hard position in the opposition.
Woo has the responsibility of carving out a third way through compromise and balance instead of knee-jerk opposition and contention. The obligation is bigger, as he will be leading the largest party in the legislature. The incoming National Assembly is structured to be in a deadlock if the three parties — with no one holding the majority — do not cooperate and work closely.
Woo must be a practical negotiator instead of a spokesperson for the party leadership or its ideology. The party could gain the upper hand in the next presidential election if it performs well, considering just how numerous the challenges are and how high the stakes have become.
But the Minjoo Party has so far disappointed the public through an endless dispute about its interim leader, Kim Chong-in, and the blame game it has been playing over the party’s election defeat in North and South Jeolla, their traditional voting stronghold. The party’s approval rating has fallen from the top spot as a result.
Woo will be stepping onto the podium with a heavy responsibility on his shoulders. He must first cooperate with the other parties to pass much-delayed bills on the economy and act upon the campaign pledges that made the Minjoo Party the largest party in the first place.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 5, Page 26