[Editorial] Shame on politicians

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[Editorial] Shame on politicians

In an alarming development, the number of people with no party affiliation increases in both the People Power Party (PPP) and the Democratic Party (DP). A recent Gallup Korea poll shows an approval rating of 33 percent for both parties, a one-percent and two-percent drop, respectively, compared to the previous week. The share of swing voters surged to 29 percent, a four-percent increase over a week.

While less than 30 percent of the moderates supported either the PPP or DP, members of the group who said they do not support any parties rose to a whopping 39 percent. (In the last presidential election, the share was in the mid-20 percent range.) Political pundits began to joke that the majority party in the National Assembly is a party of voters with no party loyalty.

The dramatic surge in independents sends a serious warning to the two major parties. First of all, the PPP continues to fumble, as seen in the four-percent drop for President Yoon Suk Yeol’s approval rating in just a week. The president broke the deadlock over the wartime forced labor issue in a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumion Kishida in Tokyo last month. But many Koreans criticize Yoon for rushing to restore Korea-Japan relations, as evidenced by a critical lack of reciprocal steps by Japan and Tokyo’s plan to release contaminated waters from Fukushima nuclear reactors and sell fish from there. Despite controversy over the president’s sudden replacement of his security and foreign affairs aides ahead of his first state visit to the United States for a summit with U.S. President Joe Biden, the government keeps mum about the reasons for the abrupt reshuffle, not to mention the ambiguity over its plan to fix the rigid 52-hour workweek.

The emergence of a group of Yoon loyalists as PPP leaders made matters worse. Even after another controversy erupted over one of them praising an ultra-right pastor in a church congregation, the PPP leadership cannot handle it. After a member of its Supreme Council lauded the priest for “unifying the conservative front,” Daegu mayor Hong Joon-pyo, a former PPP presidential candidate, demanded the council member be immediately removed from his post.

The DP holding 169 seats in the 300-member legislature is no different. Some members of the majority party prepare to visit Japan to inspect the area near the Fukushima plant and meet with Japanese fishermen. Despite the president’s vow to not import fish from Fukushima, the DP is bent on inciting anti-Japanese sentiment. The supermajority party even pushes a legislative probe of the Korea-Japan summit in March even though it refused a legislative probe of former president Moon Jae-in’s suspicious summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in 2018. The DP voted for a motion to approve the prosecution’s request for an arrest warrant for a PPP lawmaker over corruption suspicions after voting down the same motions for its boss Lee Jae-myung and a DP lawmaker over various allegations.

To win the hearts of the voters, the two parties must stop politics for their support bases. President Yoon promised to heal the wounds from the April 3 massacre in Jeju, but sent the prime minister to the ceremony to commemorate the tragedy in 1948. In the meantime, Yoon met with his supporters in a market in Daegu, the home turf of Korean conservatism. The DP must also know the limits of opposition for opposition’s sake. If the two parties are engrossed with politics of confrontation and hatred, it spells the arrival of an alternative political force.
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