People’s Burden Party
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng llbo.
There are countless research studies on good leadership. Most advise that the key to successful leadership is to delegate powers when needed and encourage good work from employees with good benefits and other incentives. Still, not many managers follow these golden rules. At the very least, they can try to avoid being the worst kind of a manager. If they shift blame onto others, say one thing and do another, or promote their personal connections and own interests, they can quickly get the reputation for being toxic managers.
Korea’s leadership is heading straight toward the pit of toxicity. Rep. Keum Tae-sup said he was abandoning the Democratic Party (DP) in dismay over the ruling party’s narrow-mindedness, self-righteousness and contradictions. The ailing economy, real estate and jobs crises are all blamed on the past two conservative governments.
The Moon Jae-in administration claims no wrongdoing even as it begins its fourth year in power. Even floods are blamed on a past government’s restoration of four major rivers. What they call “pro-Japanese forces” in the opposition front is also to be blamed. But anything is excusable and pardoned for those in the ruling front. The DP has shown how united it can be in defending against controversies over former and sitting Justice Ministers Cho Kuk and Choo Mi-ae and Rep. Yoon Mee-hyang.
There is no limit to its bigotry. When Rep. Keum left the DP, his ex-partymates complained and criticized. Some said the rotten tooth had finally fallen out, and spoke out how they hated being on the same team as him. Such dogmatism was not so extreme in past liberal governments under Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun.
The government and DP have become fearless due to the absence of a formidable rival on the political front. The main opposition People Power Party (PPP) is more or less invisible. It merely adds some rhetorical froth to the legislature. Members of the PPP themselves grumble that the opposition was not this hopeless even under the military regimes.
Moon’s supporters encouraged the president to do whatever he wished after the DP took power for the first time in nearly a decade. Now the conservatives sarcastically tell the liberal government to do whatever it wants. An increasing number of people rallied to protest the government running the country as if it owns it and posted petitions to the Blue House online. But nothing went through. The PPP easily gave up. It helplessly surrendered when the ruling party grabbed the chairs of 18 standing committees of the National Assembly. The PPP should be ashamed of renaming itself the “People Power Party.”
The opposition is only good at causing internal disorder. It goes on fighting over titles. For instance, members of the PPP are always wrangling among themselves even when none of the potential candidates for Seoul Mayor is mentioned inside the party. That’s not all. Kim Chong-in, interim leader of the PPP, discredits party members whenever he can. In reaction, they call for replacement of the leadership whenever they can. Fractionalism would not have been this bad even during the Joseon Dynasty. At the time, the fractured royal court at least had the grounds of values and loyalties behind their fights.
During the legislature’s regular audit of the government — usually a period when the opposition can command the spotlight — polls showed that the share of people without any party loyalty was double the approval rating for the PPP. It has earned public cynicism for its lethargic reactions when it was being called “People’s Burden Party” by Gyeonggi Gov. Lee Jae-myung. Government or corporate employees can be sacked if they are negligent or seek their own interests. The PPP is totally negligent of its duty as leader of an opposition.
We cannot know the results of next year’s by-elections for Seoul and Busan mayors. But even if the PPP wins, the results will be meaningless as they would have merely benefited from public resentment towards the ruling party and government. The Moon administration has become so reckless because it has gained power out of public disgust over the past conservative administration. Every time it changed its party name, the opposition has promised to be born anew. Yet they have lost four elections — including presidential, local and parliamentary elections — in a row. I wonder how long they would have to fall before they truly learn and live up to their party name?