Playing the youth cardSim Sang-jeung, chairwoman of the left-wing Justice Party, vowed to work toward raising monthly pay for conscripted soldiers to 1 million won ($839), which would be more than twice this year’s offering of 405,700 won. Her party also will propose to lessen military volunteer labor in the civilian sector by assigning the work to private agencies. The proposals would be pleasing to the ears of soldiers and also future draftees. Many have suggested realistic increases in soldiers’ pay to compensate for their sacrifice. The savings also could be a huge help to the young starting independent lives.
But where will the financing for such a plan come from? Sim’s sudden appeal to the youth follows her de facto support for Cho Kuk. She said she “respects the presidential right in appointments despite many worries” about the candidate. Sim may be trying to buy support from the young, who have become angry towards Cho and the ruling party due to allegations about special treatment Cho’s daughter enjoyed in schools because of her high-profile parents. The minority party is suspected to have bargained to back Cho in return for the fast-tracking of a new election act that can help it win more seats. The party’s Facebook page has drawn criticism from members of the party head’s audacity to seek votes from the young.
The party was disapproving of Cho when allegations about his family first surfaced. Sim pointed out that people “in their 20s and 30s were in a rage, those in their 30s to 40s were in disillusionment and those in their 60s to 70s were disgusted with the progressive front.” But after the ruling party sought to unilaterally pass the revised election act, it turned more sympathetic to Cho. The election law should act as the rules of the game to ensure fair play. The act dubbed the Sim Sang-jeong Act because she tabled the motion is vehemently protested by the main opposition Liberty Korea Party. The revised bill acts most favorably for the Justice Party, whose seat would be more than doubled to 14 from the current six under a simulation test. Collaborating with the ruling party for its own benefit should bring chagrin to a party that should be upholding justice.
Although Cho ended up taking the justice minister job, he still faces a lot of suspicions undermining his commitment to fairness, justice and equality. He has lost the moral ground to spearhead reforms. The Justice Party cannot win back the support of the youth by doubling soldiers’ pay. If it really wants to be true to its name, it must join the opposition front to call for the dismissal of Cho.
JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 11, Page 30