The attack strategyThe Moon Jae-in administration’s counterattacks on the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) after it raised questions about a government plan to build a nuclear reactor for North Korea seem to have crossed a point of no return. In the past, when opposition parties denounced the Blue House or a ruling party for policy blunders, each defended itself. But this time, the Blue House, ruling Democratic Party (DP) and government are joining forces to counterattack the PPP.
After PPP leader Kim Chong-in branded the Moon administration’s alleged plan to construct a nuclear reactor for North Korea an “act benefitting the enemy,” Moon came forward and refuted it outright. Following the expression of his displeasure at Kim’s comment last Friday, Moon criticized the PPP Monday for reigniting “political offensives of the past.” A senior Blue House official went on to lambaste the PPP for trying to mislead the people based on anti-North Korea sentiment among South Koreans.
The Blue House, DP and government have since reacted in a concerted way. Following the release of related documents by the Energy Ministry on Monday, DP Chairman Lee Nak-yon and Choi Jae-sung, Moon’s senior secretary for political affairs, led counterattacks on the PPP the following day. In a speech to the National Assembly on Tuesday, Lee devoted nearly two minutes to attacking the PPP at the end of his address. “The leader of the main opposition has crossed a line. He perfectly misunderstood the plan and irresponsibly attacked the president for nothing,” he fumed.
Senior Presidential Secretary Choi rejected the PPP’s demand that the government release the contents of a USB given to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un by Moon during their summit on April 27, 2018. Choi added that the government could consider the idea of releasing the contents of the USB “if the PPP is willing to put its fate at risk.”
The DP may have thought of the PPP’s “ideology-based offensives” as being beneficial to winning the April 7 by-elections in Seoul and Busan. But it is a serious mistake if the ruling party believes it can distract the public from the reactor plan with its relentless counterattacks on the PPP. An increasing number of people are wondering why the Moon Jae-in administration, which is pursuing a nuclear phase-out in South Korea, wanted to build a nuclear reactor in North Korea and why Energy Ministry officials deleted sensitive files in the middle of the night.
Nevertheless, the Blue House, DP and government refuse to answer these basic questions. They simply deny the existence of such a plan or attribute it to the previous conservative administrations, saying they also pursued construction of a nuclear reactor in North Korea.
Such arrogant attitudes of the ruling camp mostly come from their reluctance — or inability — to understand why the public harbors serious doubts about the plan. People’s suspicions are being fueled by their dissatisfaction with the liberal administration’s overly submissive reaction to North Korea’s endless provocations. This is not the time for the government to turn away from the essence of the problem with all-out counterattacks. It is the time to tell the truth.