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Dedication, Not Age

Posted July. 06, 2010 11:22,   


On the ruling Grand National Party’s defeat in the June 2 local elections, President Lee Myung-bak said with regret, “Why doesn’t the ruling party have figures such as Lee Kwang-jae or Ahn Hee-jung?” Lee Kwang-jae was elected Gangwon Province governor and Ahn took over South Chungcheong Province. The two lawmakers of the main opposition Democratic Party won thanks to their challenge-loving spirit despite being just 45 years old. Formerly student activists born in the 1960s, they were the key figures behind the presidential election win of Roh Moo-hyun in 2002. President Lee’s comment indicates that he might envy the active generational shift occurring within the opposition party led by young lawmakers in their 40s.

Perhaps conscious of the opposition party’s change, the ruling party has fielded many young candidates for its chairmanship at its July 14 convention. The young age of the candidates, however, does not mean a generational shift. The ruling party should do some soul-searching on why the public has turned its back on it and fundamentally change its mindset and constitution before considering a generational shift.

The president should not stop at envying the Democratic Party or deploring the absence of talent in the ruling party. Talent does not just fall from the sky. Leaders or groups in need of talent should proactively find and nurture it. If the president sticks to his “revolving door policy” of only appointing figures he knew before his presidency or campaign supporters, he deserves blame for not broadly looking for talent. His lament over the ruling party’s lack of able figures will only invite a scornful response from talent yet to be discovered. There seems to be many in his administration who blindly believe that his landslide victory in 2007 means he can simply forget what the public really needs. Ahead of the Cabinet reshuffle, others seem to want to put their interests before others and keep their golden badges as lawmakers for the next local elections.

Candidates for the ruling party’s leadership unanimously claimed the need for a turnaround in a live TV forum ahead of the party convention. Unfortunately, few of them convinced the public of a vision of change. While many candidates want to rely on the pro-President Lee or pro-Park Geun-hye factions or both, a few seem willing to eradicate “selfish politics” that caused the party’s crisis and public mistrust, and sacrifice themselves for the good of the public.

Despite the seeming improvement in economic indicators, the working poor are still struggling to make ends meet. If the ruling party continues to fight over vested rights between the two factions, shows no improvement from before the local elections, and tries to trick the people into believing that it is making a turnaround, the public will have no hope in the party. What the nation needs is a dedicated politician who attentively listens to the needs of the people firsthand and gives hope to the marginalized in society. What matters is not a politician’s age but dedication. Those with dedication should be found and given leading roles in the ruling party’s turnaround efforts. It should also set a strong constitution that can endure any struggle to protect values to be upheld by the nation.

Politics that fails to move the people cannot win them back. What the ruling party needs is substantial action to embrace the marginalized in society and give them hope.