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[Opinion] Daejeon Mayor Yum Hong-chul

Posted April. 21, 2005 23:23,   


One who changes his party affiliation always puts on quite a heroic face. He never fails to intone “national and regional advancement.” After all, he emphasizes, it was an “agonizing decision.” Throughout the history of Korean politics, this has been a scene so frequently encountered that we even feel as if we are watching the same prerecorded video over and over. Daejeon City Major Yum Hong-chul’s decision to join the ruling Uri Party two days ago was no different from that formula. “The great thesis of regional advancement takes precedence over any other theses,” he explained regarding the reasoning behind his decision. “That must have been an extremely difficult decision,” responded Mun Hee-sang, chairman of the Uri Party, adding that he “felt like he has won thousands of troops and horses.”

It seems apparent that the reason why Mayor Yum had to leave the Grand National Party (GNP) and join the Uri Party was nothing more or less than to “take advantage of the administrative capital issue in a way that serves his own political interests.” In fact, residents of Chungcheong Province have negative sentiments towards the GNP. To get re-elected in the next year’s local elections, being a member of the Uri Party would be more helpful. For a politician, however, changing his party affiliation is self-negation that reverses the causes and bases for all the political acts he has conducted so far. At the same time, it is a betrayal of the voters who supported the politician not because they liked him but because they liked his party.

Mayor Yum has registered himself as the “the opportunist of 2005” within the political community. The opposition GNP is heaping harsh criticism on his head, including accusations that “Chungcheong Province, the region of loyalty, has turned into a habitat for migrant-bird politicians.” Even within the ruling party, some are voicing their concerns that a man who made a long career at former ruling parties and the Grand National Party is “unlikely to match the identity of the Uri Party,” and that the Uri Party should not be a playground for “migrant birds”—a Korean expression referring to opportunistic politicians who frequently change their party affiliation—whose motive for joining them is nothing but “to gain membership of the ruling party.”

Mayor Yum, a former professor, had once taught dependency theory at a university. During that period, he is said to have focused on the subordination/dependency relationships between the core (developed countries) and the periphery (developing countries). Among his works are such books as “The Third World and Dependency Theory” and “Political Economy of Subordination and Development.” One who keeps following the sunny side in pursuit of his own interests may well be called a “peripheral politician” subordinated by old, decaying politics. In any case, how long should Koreans have patience with migrant-bird politicians, who always make their appearance whenever the election draws near?

Song Young-eon, Editorial writer, youngeon@donga.com