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The main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea is being swept up in a debate over its identity and contentious manifesto ahead of the national convention to select the new leadership on Aug. 27. An overheated debate on these issues could overwhelm the convention with ideological wrangling, taking away from discussions of policies for the people and economy.

The Minjoo Party rejected the idea of rewriting its manifesto to be more in tune with the broad concept of “citizens” proposed by the convention preparation committee and instead chose a more specific, hard-line platform in support of “workers.” The new platform would require the party to work towards improving the rights of “the workers, farmers, small employers and the middle class” — instead of the more centrist “rights of citizens” as proposed by the preparation committee.

The new platforms are more specific compared to the current platform of “promoting the rights of workers and citizens.” As it is outdated to differentiate workers and citizens, it would be appropriate for the party to revise the platform to make it more general and universal.

But candidates like Choo Mi-ae, Lee Jong-kul, and Kim Sang-kon running for the new party leadership all opposed the removal of the phrase “workers,” saying it goes against the party’s roots. Due to the strong protests from the activists-turned-lawmakers, the party instead decided to list the working class in its new platform. The new platform initially suggested creating a special cooperative zone in the Yellow Sea to reflect increased threats from North Korea, but dropped it, also in fear of stoking controversy over the party’s identity.

The opposition regained its strong footing in the legislature after the former dissident faction led by Moon Jae-in and other loyalists to former President Roh Moo-hyun stepped aside and dropped the hard-line image under the leadership of recruited centrist Kim Chong-in before the April election. Watching the fiasco over the phrase “workers,” Kim lamented that all the endeavors to change the image of the party were going down the drain.

The Minjoo Party is once again dominated by the former followers of Roh and Moon after outside members like Ahn Cheol-soo left the party. But the party has no future if it clings to the past and declares itself a party for workers.


JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 19, Page 30
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