[Editorial] An ominous return to the demise

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[Editorial] An ominous return to the demise

Na Kyung-won, former People Power Party (PPP) floor leader, has expressed her intention to resign as vice chair of the Presidential Committee on Aging Society and Population Policy after she proposed a debt write-off plan for young couples to encourage them to have children. On the day following her comment on Jan. 5, Ahn Sang-hoon, senior presidential secretary on social affairs, said the idea was not consistent with the conservative administration’s policy direction. Other aides to the president relayed his disgruntlement with Na for trying to go on her own way.

If there had been a disagreement over policy ideas, it could have been quietly solved. But the fiasco underlies a serious rift between Na and the president. Na leads polls of PPP supporters ahead of the party’s national convention on March 8 to select the next PPP leader. Rep. Kim Gi-hyeon is the potential candidate loyal to President Yoon after Rep. Kwon Seong-dong bowed out of the race for the new chairmanship. Former PPP interim head Kim Chong-in said that the presidential office has reacted oversensitively to Na because seating her on the presidential committee should have sent her a message to keep away from party leadership race.

Na partly invited the suspicion. Although holding two posts in the government — vice chair of the demographic policy committee and ambassador of climate and environment — she has been visiting local party divisions to imply her ambition for the race. She also maintained ambiguous attitude about her plan to run for the chairmanship of the PPP.

To further expose a conflict with Na, the senior presidential secretary made a press briefing on Na just a few hours after a media interview implying her intention of bidding for party chief was published. The presidential office cannot avoid criticism if it really seated Na to the presidential committee to prevent her bid for the party leadership. No doubt our demographic challenges are too grave to be used for political purpose.

With or without Na, the race for the party leadership raises serious concerns. The contest is restricted to who is more favored by Yoon. Candidates are busy boasting how many times they spoke on the phone with the president. They define their rivals as an “anti-Yoon group.” The shameful sight reminds us of the conservative party’s sad past when it was defeated in the parliamentary elections in 2016 after campaigning entirely based on their closeness and loyalty to then president Park Geun-hye. The party’s factional feud led to not just an election defeat but also to the impeachment of the president. The economy and public livelihood require urgent attention. The PPP must depart with its deplorable past.
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