Minjoo must come off the fenceThe main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea fails to deliver a consistent voice on the government’s plan to bring in the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area (Thaad) defense system to South Korea for deterrence against North Korea’s increasing nuclear missile threat.
Moon Jae-in, former head of the party and presidential hopeful, recently said that it is not easy to retract an agreement between two governments. He proposed to persuade Beijing and Moscow that oppose the deployment and seek public approval through deliberation at the legislature. When the government announced the plan last year, he vehemently demanded the government withdraw the decision.
Then, after the president came under public pressure to step down amid the scandal, he eased his tone on the issue, asking the government to let the incoming administration decide on the matter.
Moon must make it clear whether he is for or against the plan. He does not directly express his opinion and ambiguously tweaks earlier statements. He would have to voice opposition when considering his liberal voting base, but fears he would lose support from conservatives and centrists. He is not qualified to be a national leader if he sits on the fence on a major security issue like this.
Another aspiring candidate An Hee-jung, South Chungcheong governor, has been consistent, saying it was unwise to overturn the Thaad agreement between Seoul and Washington. Security tensions are at a high. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in his New Year’s address said the regime was in the last stage of testing intercontinental ballistic missile and upped nuclear saber-rattling. The top defense official of the Trump administration hinted that a pre-emptive strike was plausible if necessary. Beijing has been using its economic prowess to retaliate against Seoul’s Thaad move while Tokyo took both diplomatic and economic actions to protest the “comfort women” pact. The diplomatic crisis is so serious that envoys of the U.S., China, Russia, Japan, and the UN met in Seoul.
The Minjoo Party should pay heed to the party’s inner voices of sense like An.
Party candidates could differ on election platforms, but there must be no difference on diplomatic and security issues as public lives are at stake. The Minjoo Party should take account of the big difference on the North Korean front since the days under President Roh Moo-hyun. It must step away from its longheld anti-U.S. and North Korea-friendly framework to concoct realistic security policy. It cannot win governing power if the public is fretful of its safety and livelihood.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 16, Page 30