Hopes for Park’s big tent

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Hopes for Park’s big tent

Park Jie-won, a four-term lawmaker who had served as a chief of staff and culture minister under President Kim Dae-jung, has been elected to head splinter opposition People’s Party. He is one of the most veteran and skilled politicians with connections on both sides of the aisle, having served senior party posts including floor-leader and ad-hoc party chairman.

In his acceptance speech, he proclaimed the People’s Party as a “big tent, a platform, and the third zone,” promising to deliver comfort and strength to the people fatigued and pained by the “impotent liberals and corrupt conservatives.” He was inviting critics of former Minjoo Party head Moon Jae-in and centrists on board.

He is also hoping to recruit potential candidates Chung Un-chan, Sohn Hak-kyu, and former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to contend with Ahn Cheol-soo. Under his king-making, the presidential race could pan out in an unexpected direction.

Ban, leading the polls with Moon, could contend he is too big to go into the People’s Party. Park may have to decide whether he should enlarge the tent. But this would invite strong protest from Ahn, the party’s co-founder who is intent on going through the upcoming presidential race. Regardless of the internal problem, it does not seem right to recruit people of differing opinions, ideology and policies for the single purpose of grooming the next president.

The centrist direction Park envisions, however, can bring about changes to Korean politics that forms groups to chase selfish interests and use head counts instead of principles to prevail. We hope the new wave of centrist politics could shape up the corrupt conservatives and all-talk-and-no-action liberals.

Centrist politics so far had no room in the Korean political system bisected by two extreme camps. If the party pursues reform in the constitution and election system to pave the way for politics of a common ground, cooperation and diversity, the public would applaud, regardless of its performance in the presidential election.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 16, Page 30

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