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[Op-Ed] Chung Dong-young’s Way

Posted April. 11, 2009 06:35,   


Around this time five years ago, several days before the April 15 parliamentary elections, then ruling Uri Party Chairman Chung Dong-young in a campaign speech urged voters to stop “old forces” from reviving. Attacking the Millennium Democratic Party, whose presidential candidate had been Roh Moo-hyun, Chung bolted from the party along with many other lawmakers to create Uri, which stood around Roh. As Uri was a heavy underdog in the 2007 presidential election due to the Roh administration’s policy failures, Chung took the initiative in unifying the Uri and Millennium Democratic parties. After losing the election as the candidate of the two merged parties, he said he would go together with the Korean people though they did not choose him.

Yesterday Chung left the party that elected him chairman twice and nominated him as its presidential candidate. He will run as an independent in his hometown in the April 29 by-elections. At a news conference yesterday, he blamed the main opposition Democratic Party`s leadership for “making a decision against the will of party members and supporters” though he returned to politics to help the troubled party and country.

He scurried to his political home turf, where his election is a done deal, deserting his previous electoral district in Seoul`s Dongjak district, where he had pledged to spend the rest of his political career in the parliamentary elections last year. He took a gamble at the risk of being labeled a traitor of his party and electoral district. The expressions “obsolete politics” and “separatism” that he used to attack his rivals now apply to him. “I am taking off my Democratic Party uniform for a while but will join again soon,” he said in announcing his bolt from the party. His rhetoric simply means he will return to the party after getting elected.

A younger Democratic Party lawmaker criticized his attitude, citing that Choe Byung-yul, a former Grand National Party chairman, stayed with the party though it nominated someone else in the 2004 parliamentary elections. Neither did former lawmakers Kim Min-suk and Ahn Hee-jung, who failed to win their party’s nominations last year. Politicians can choose to live today and die tomorrow. Or they can die today to live forever. The choice Chung made yesterday will haunt him throughout his political career.

Editorial Writer Park Sung-won (swpark@donga.com)