Justice Party needs deep soul searching

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Justice Party needs deep soul searching

After a recommendation for the resignation of all lawmakers elected under proportional representation from the Justice Party (JP) was voted down in a general meeting of the minority party on Monday, the legislators can keep their seats in the National Assembly. But the repercussions of the vote are far-reaching because it was not only the first voting on the fate of lawmakers by party members themselves in Korea, but also reflects growing demands for a colossal revamp of splinter parties. Though the recommendation was rejected at the last minute, a whopping 40.75 percent of all party members approved the resignation of lawmakers in proportional seats. Lowering their heads after the vote, the five legislators vowed to do their best to meet the requirements for them.

The time has come for a dramatic facelift of the party. After a long decline since its foundation in 2012, the JP produced only one lawmaker with constituency, Rep. Sim Sang-jeong, who ended up winning only 2.37 percent of the votes in the March 9 presidential election. In the presidential election five years before, she earned twice the votes. In the June 1 local elections, too, the JP stopped at winning 9 municipal council positions. Four years earlier, the party won 37 seats. The dramatic decline of the JP demands deep soul searching from the Justice Party.

The descent of the JP owes much to the party itself. Over the past 10 years, the party was busy forming a shortsighted coalition with major parties — including strategically fielding a single candidate in elections or changing the election systems — to help increase the number of its seats in the legislature. In the 2020 parliamentary elections, the JP pushed for a novel proportional representation system together with the Democratic Party (DP), but was criticized for behaving as “satellite party” of the DP. Even during the Cho Kuk crisis, the JP shunned criticizing the former justice minister for his wrongdoings.

The JP plans to reinstate the party in crisis through a conference of party delegates later this month, including changing the name of the party. But the peril the party faces cannot be resolved by simply changing its name or party leadership. It must prove its raison d’être to the voters beyond the labor, gender, inequality and polarization issues. It must present its own vision and creative solutions to a plethora of our problems.

The predicament of the JP manifests the grim reality our political parties confront. Major parties, like the DP and the People Power Party (PPP), habitually return to the emergency committee system. Even the destiny of the leadership of the PPP now depends on court rulings. We hope the Justice Party will re-establish itself as a proud splinter party in Korea.
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