Wasting ammunitionThe sudden controversy within the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) baffled the public. It started out as PPP interim leader Kim Chong-in proposing to issue a party-level apology for the wrongdoings and imprisonment of two former conservative presidents, Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye. The plan rocked the conservative party.
The internal strife after repeated election defeats is a sad sign. This is no time for the main opposition party to engage in an internal brawl, when the justice minister and chief prosecutor are at war and the ruling Democratic Party (DP) is unilaterally passing new laws, including a fatal revision of the new anticorruption agency act.
Kim, ad hoc leader of the PPP, is determined to go ahead with the public apology. In an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo, Kim argued that the party lost shamefully in the April parliamentary elections because the conservative front never genuinely atoned for its past wrongdoings. Kim’s proposal to overcome the past through a sincere apology has merit.
Still, there are problems with his leadership. If he had persuaded party members in advance, his plan may not have angered so many of them. Floor leader Joo Ho-young outright opposed his move. That can disadvantage the party ahead of the important mayoral by-elections in Seoul and Busan in April. Refreshing the party under a new name and emergency leadership was meant to overcome the past. An apology at this stage could be ill-timed, argue the proposal’s opponents.
Still, it’s an eyesore for the opponents to publicly shame their leader. Rep. Chang Je-won criticized Kim for “overstretching his power” as the interim leader does not have the legitimate authority to apologize. Rep. Bae Hyun-jin observed a “lack of congruity” and former party heavyweight Hong Joon-pyo criticized the apology for being a “humiliating” defeat to the DP. They all lambasted their leader through social media. The voices mostly came from those who fell out of favor with Kim.
The PPP has lost four major elections, including presidential and legislative elections. It was thoroughly defeated in the last parliamentary election on April 15. It has no competitive candidate to field for the upcoming presidential election in 2022. It is even shunned by the younger generation. They only can do worse by fighting among themselves. The conservative party could lose support from the people for good. This is no time to waste ammunition in an internal battle.