Stop populist pledges

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Stop populist pledges

The main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea vowed to overthrow the decision to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (Thaad) and Korea-Japan military intelligence-sharing pact in its listing of 12 agendas in the wake of public outrage over the scandal involving the president and her impeachment. It proposed to extend commercial building contracts to 10 years from current five and create corporate donation of 1 trillion won ($839.8 million) in the Korea-China Free Trade Agreement to fund farmers and fishers.

The party pledged to push ahead with the agenda before April when the presidential election will be scheduled if the Constitutional Court rules in favor of the National Assembly’s impeachment against President Park Geun-hye. It is a pity that the main opposition party, which commands the largest share in the legislature, is resorting to populism by riding on the incapabilities of the ruling party.

A responsible party should try to reflect in public policies the disgruntlement unleashed in a climate that led to impeachment. But its set of proposals could jeopardize the genuineness of the peaceful public protests. Thaad and the Korea-Japan military information-sharing pact are minimal protections against growing North Korean nuclear and missile threat. The opposition has long contested the two options, without any alternative ideas.

Korea would have to take diplomatic procedures if it wants to break an inter-government agreement. National credibility and the Korea-U.S. alliance could be seriously impaired if Seoul attempts to nullify inter-government pacts. We would be merely doing China a favor by nullifying the decision to bring the U.S. antimissile system.

The proposals on commercial building rentals and the rural community fund are equally contentious. It is wrong to demand another corporate donation when large companies are still reeling from the controversy over their forced donations to nonprofit funds headed by the president’s friend. The longer-term goal of establishing a civilian legislative system also could raise legal questions. What is the use of elected legislature and local assemblies?

The public protests were aimed to dethrone a shameful president, not to prosecute the policies under the administration. We never authorized the opposition to overthrow the key policies of President Park. The opposition must remember that it too could face public backlash if it merely chases populism.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 21, Page 34
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