Privatization of a party

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Privatization of a party

Rep. Lee Jae-myung — a former presidential candidate from the Democratic Party (DP) — advocated the party’s move to amend its constitution to help him take the helm of the embattled party in the August 28 National Convention. The constitution mandates party members suspend others from their job if they are indicted for corruption. Lee’s support for the party’s move is shameful.

In a debate with other contenders for chairmanship, Lee said it is not appropriate for the DP to suspend party members just because they have been indicted. He expressed deep concern about the abuse of power by prosecutors to attack opposition parties in a “republic of the prosecution.” Lee argued that the attempt to amend the party constitution had nothing to do with him as it had been pushed by the emergency committee of the party from the beginning.

But his argument is wrong. Lee, former Seongnam mayor and Gyeonggi governor, is being investigated by the prosecution and police over his involvement in the suspicious land development project in Seongnam city, shady donations for a football club representing the city and pressuring a private company to pay his attorney’s fees in return for some favors. That’s not all. His wife is being criticized for using his corporate card for private purposes. In fact, four suspects involved in his cases have already committed suicide. Lee insists that their death has nothing to do with him. But evidence points to the other direction.

Lee claims the amendment is not for him. But it sounds strange. Tens of thousands of his followers, including the “daughters of reform,” joined in petitioning for an amendment to the constitution, not to mention efforts by Lee’s colleagues to encourage party members to agree to the amendment. If such moves are not related to Lee, who would believe it?

The DP suffered a lot when it dared to revise its constitution against public sentiment. The party experienced crushing defeats in the Seoul and Busan mayoral by-elections last year after revising its party constitution to help elect certain candidates in the primary despite their moral problems. The by-elections were the party’s first defeats since its three consecutive victories in the presidential, parliamentary and local elections earlier.

More worrisome is that the DP’s decision against common sense is aimed to help Lee. He was repeatedly criticized for running in a recent by-election for a seat representing a district in Incheon city, unrelated to Seongnam where he served as mayor for eight years. The same suspicion applies to the party constitution revision for Lee. In a strange development, however, one of his rivals was even ridiculed by party members after raising questions about Lee.
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