A new political cultureAhn Cheol-soo has decided to step down as co-chairman of the embattled People’s Party together with Chun Jung-bae after taking responsibility for the party’s political kickbacks scandal involving Rep. Kim Su-min, the party’s youngest lawmaker and newly-elected proportional representative in the 300-seat National Assembly. With Ahn’s resignation, the minor opposition with 38 seats in the legislature faces the biggest crisis since its birth two months before the April 13 general election. It is a regrettable development given the party’s declaration to separate itself from old politics.
But the alleged rebate scandal which broke out early this month has laid bare the real face of the party even uglier than the ruling Saenuri Party or the major opposition Minjoo Party. Chairman Ahn, the software mogul-turned-politician, stressed that anyone involved in corruption must leave the political theater no matter what. He put top priority on rooting out corruption to reshape our politics. He proclaimed that our political parties must not nominate any lawmakers who lost their seats on corruption charges.
But he kept silence on his aides’ involvement in corruption, not to mention being neglectful of in-house investigations of Rep. Kim and another senior lawmaker Park Sun-sook, also involved in the corruption. He said he would inestad deprive them of their party membership — a punishment way short of our expectations considering the arrest of Deputy Secretary General Wang Joo-hyeon for allegedly receiving over 300 million won ($258 million) in bribes.
But it all goes up to Chairman Ahn. We welcome his stepdown. Now that he resigned, Reps. Kim and Park must take political responsibility and step down as lawmakers before the prosecution brings them to justice — if the party wants to meet the standards for its “new politics.”
Saenuri and Minjoo also must clear all possible corruptions. The Minjoo also must get to the bottom of all corruption charges involving lawmaker Seo Young-kyo now under suspicion for her heavy-handedness in another corruption case. If the major opposition party settles for a mere suspension of her seat, no citizen would understand. The ruling party also must harshly punish Rep. Park In-sook for hiring a cousin as a secretary.
Ahn’s resignation shows the arrival of a new political culture which cannot permit politicians’ bad practices in the past. The proposals of bills aimed at scrapping legislators’ privileges and Assembly speaker Chung Sye-kyun’s vow to scale down their immunity from arrest all show the advent of a new era. Our politicians must end the deep-rooted corruption once and for all.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jun. 30, Page 30