Choo’s challengesFifth-term lawmaker Choo Mi-ae was elected chair of the major opposition Minjoo Party of Korea. The election Saturday of Choo, who hails from Daegu — home to conservatism in Korean politics — as opposition leader is historic in Korean politics. We expect her to help elevate the level of our conflict-ridden politics through the spirit of harmony by appointing more female politicians to major posts.
Choo faces many challenges. She was elected thanks to the overwhelming support from party members loyal to former presidential candidate Moon Jae-in and former president Roh Moo-hyun. National Assembly speaker Chung Se-kyun, party floor leader Woo Sang-ho, to name a few, are also members of the pro-Moon faction. Their overwhelming backing of Choo has transformed Minjoo into a party dominated by the pro-Moon group.
In the race for the party leadership, Choo had to be conscious of their support. She excused herself for voting for the impeachment of President Roh in 2004, saying, “It was an unavoidable choice at the time.” She also made controversial remarks suggestive of holding Kim Chong-in, former interim leader of the party, accountable for Roh’s impeachment. She now must integrate the pro-Moon faction and the rest as party leader.
Chair-elect Choo must take the lead in ensuring the Minjoo Party wins the 2017 presidential election. But if she fails to root out the party’s signature outdoor rallies and stop its maneuvers to obstruct the government, she cannot realize the opposition’s desire to take power, as seen in its defeats in presidential and legislative elections over the last decade.
Korea suffers alarming low growth, youth joblessness, wealth polarization and low birth rates. If the party really wants to take power, it must present clear visions to strike a balance between growth and distribution. But Choo didn’t offer commitments for the economy and welfare in the race for party leadership. She instead resorted to a populist slogan of constructing a new airport in North Jeolla, which only backfired, and also threw cold water on interim leader Kim Chong-in’s effort to moderate the party’s hardline stance after opposing the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile battery.
Choo must demonstrate a new image of the party to win the presidency. To do that, she must appoint lawmakers with economic expertise — and without factions — in the party’s major posts. She also must set fair rules for fair contests for the primaries to run for president in the next election.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 29, Page 30