Political parties are undergoing reflection. Both the ruling and opposition camps are in atonement mode. The ruling Grand National Party is stressing its transformation into an ordinary people-focused political party following a change of leadership to atone for its mistakes after its crushing defeat in the June 2 local elections. The party continues its atonement campaign despite its surprising victory in the July 28 by-elections. Rep. Lee Jae-oh, who made a comeback as a lawmaker, and Rep. Jung Doo-un, a member of the partys supreme council, were seen exchanging deep bows in a show of humility. The main opposition Democratic Party, which claimed victory in the local elections, is also repeatedly urging thorough atonement after its by-election defeat.
What the parties say and do are starkly different, however. In the ruling party, an emotional conflict between Chairman Ahn Sang-soo and supreme council member Rep. Hong Joon-pyo has brought about disharmony, with supreme council members exchanging verbal attacks over the appointment of its leadership. This is typical behavior representing factional strife and struggle meant to appoint personnel who support their own factions to key posts. Disciplinary action against Rep. Kang Yong-seok, who allegedly made sexist comments, has not been concluded in a clear-cut fashion. In the Democratic Party, members have disclosed an internal feud for days over the resignation of the partys leadership, including Chairman Chung Sye-kyun, over responsibility for the by-election loss. With the launch of an emergency committee, the dispute over the leadership`s resignation has waned but party members have no other interest than next months national convention, which will elect a new leadership. Both parties have repeatedly pressed for atonement and more jobs through words, but their behavior seems to merely focus on internal power struggles.
The situation surrounding the country is not safe enough to allow lawmakers of both camps to idly sit together in well air-conditioned offices at their respective parties headquarters or restaurants, concentrating on a battle of political plots. Since they have promised to atone for their arrogant behavior and humbly accept public sentiment, they should change their outdated political practices. In other words, what politics specifically does to serve the peoples interest needs to change.
Domestic politics faces a flurry of tasks and issues. It must help galvanize the economic livelihood of the people, the most basic factor of their life, and increase educational competitiveness to prepare this country for the next century. To create quality jobs and expand new growth engines, drastic deregulation and advancement of the service industry are critically needed. Politicians should also seek measures to promote the co-prosperity of conglomerates and smaller enterprises. They can no longer afford to ignore the financial crises facing state-run companies and municipal and provincial governments, which is effectively a time bomb. Moreover, they must help resolve conflicts between the central government and municipal and provincial governments, between the national educational authority and regional superintendents, and between the heads of municipal and provincial governments and councils, which have intensified following the local elections. National security must be beefed up to ensure that the people feel safe. Politicians should also prompt the communist regime in North Korea to correct its wrongs and prepare for national reunification from a longer term perspective.
The ruling and opposition camps must join forces to handle these matters in the National Assembly. It is a genuine act of atonement for them to compete when they need to and cooperate when they can, and thus deliver on their promises through real action, including policy reviews and legislative activities. Reflection based on sound bites and political gestures cannot move the public and will only fuel the peoples distrust in and hatred of domestic politics.