Making flip-flops workRuling Democratic Party (DP) presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung is confusing voters by changing his positions on critical issues, citing “the people’s will.” On Saturday, he vowed “not to do anything without the people’s consent.” Even if there are policy ideas rooted in convictions, it is not right to press ahead with them if the public does not agree, said the former Gyeonggi governor.
Lee’s respect for public opinion cannot be faulted. In fact, Lee withdrew his proposal for universal relief grants and expressed reservations over his own proposals for basic welfare benefits and a national land possession tax, citing the people’s will. He even hinted at the possibility of resuming the construction of the Shin Hanul No. 3 and No. 4 nuclear reactors, which was suspended as a result of President Moon Jae-in’s policy to phase out nuclear energy. We welcome Lee’s ability to be flexible. Yet it is not appropriate for him to try to streamline diverse public opinions just for political purposes. For instance, he has pledged to do nothing if it goes against public opinion. A leader sometimes must make a decision for the country even if it is not favored by the public.
Lee’s sincerity is being questioned. Despite his backing down on basic welfare benefits, he said he had recently met with Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong to propose that Samsung lead the debate. That’s nothing but a request to the company to help him build a public consensus on the issue. That’s not all. While a professor who believes the basic income welfare policy still serves as a co-chair of a committee in his camp, another professor who opposed the idea was suspended from his party membership for eight months.
Lee also apologized for the Cho Kuk scandal, saying it disappointed the public’s expectation of fairness. “That is an inexcusable mistake,” he said after backpedaling from his previous portrayal of public attacks on Cho, former justice minister, as a “witch hunt.” Yet there was no follow-up action from Lee. Defenders of Cho are still working as core members of his campaign team.
Citing the DP’s failure to meet expectations of the public, Lee knelt and bowed to the people in a meeting with his aides. But he soon instructed DP lawmakers to railroad a bill aimed at appointing labor representatives as board members of public corporations. Lee accepted a special investigation into the Daejang-dong development scandal, but the DP refused to submit a bill appointing a special prosecutor. Lee’s frequent shifts have helped him narrow a gap in approval ratings with his rival Yoon Seok-youl. But Lee must first prove his sincerity through action if he wants to turn the tide. The voters are closely watching.