Fueling national division

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Fueling national division

Some members of the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea on Wednesday joined the candlelight vigil rallies protesting to the deployment of the U.S.-led Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system in Seongju County, North Gyeongsang. Earlier in the day, North Korea fired a ballistic missile that landed in Japanese-controlled waters.

Opposition lawmakers told local residents in Seongju that Thaad would draw more military provocation from North Korea. Kim Hong-geol of the party assured the residents that the opposition party would soon declare opposition to Thaad deployment official party stance. The party maintained that the leadership won’t formerly declare its position on the controversial issue, but nevertheless did not prevent members going to Seongju to protest.

Separately, six lawmakers of the Minjoo Party are set to visit China on Monday to meet officials of the Communist Party and discuss the decision ramifications with Chinese experts. They claimed their trip is aimed to gauge opinion in China, but their visit could be exploited by Chinese media to hype internal opposition and strife over the installment of the missile system. The party is condoning a campaign to topple the government decision to deploy the new weapons system, reversing from its earlier position that it does not oppose to the plan if it is for national practical interests.

Minjoo Party’s interim leader Kim Chong-in maintains that it was right to respect a security decision. But Moon Jae-in, former party chief and ring leader of the mainstream, requested that the government rethink the plan and hold a public debate on the issue. Regardless of who becomes the next leader of the main opposition, he or she is most likely to stand opposed to the deployment. The party must clarify its position in order not to confuse the people.

The government is to be blamed for bringing about conflict through its unilateral decision and lack of persuasive effort. The opposition could think differently on the issue as even defense experts are mixed whether the system would be of any help to the national defense and interests.

It may be true the missile system is not the best deterrence against North Korea’s missile threats. But if the party wants to oppose, it must offer better alternative on protection against North Korean threat. Beijing has been carrying out negative campaigns on the plan, and the main opposition party members’ actions are helping it. The party must set aside their own interests to think about what’s best for the country.

JoongAng Ilbo, August 5, Page 26
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