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Main opposition party needs self-reflection

Posted January. 10, 2013 06:37,   


The main opposition Democratic United Party has picked Rep. Moon Hee-sang to head its emergency committee. The party has been struggling to go forward after its defeat in the presidential election last month. A five-term veteran lawmaker, Moon is expected to lead the party temporarily until the official election of the new chairman at its national convention. Moon is not part of the party’s pro-Roh Moo-hyun faction, which is under fire to the loss. Moon was chief of the staff under the Roh administration but is not considered a pro-Roh figure who has caught flack for the election result. If the party wants to reorganize itself and remove its identity crisis and present itself as the leading opposition party, the emergency committee must conduct a thorough analysis on the party`s successive defeats in the general and presidential elections last year.

The Democratic United Party is Korea’s main opposition party who had been in power for ten years. The party secured 127 seats in the National Assembly in the general elections last year and earned 48 percent of the vote in the last presidential election. Yet experts say the party invited a fall in status over the presidential election campaign period by putting all its eggs in one basket, namely opposition solidarity.

In the past, the now-defunct liberal parties New Congress for New Politics and the Millennium Democratic Party expanded their boundaries by embracing moderates, which made it possible by proclaim the pursuit of moderate reform. The ruling Saenuri Party went so far as to invite former members of the rival party, Rep. Han Kwang-ok, Han Hwa-gap and Kim Kyong-jae, and even tried to earn support from the victims of the Yushin regime under the leadership of the late father of its presidential candidate Park Geun-hye. The main opposition party, however, moved backwards by maintaining a polarized view of media and history. It opposed the free trade agreement with the U.S. and the construction of a naval base on Jeju Island, both of which were pushed for by Roh, while repeating the same old manner of aggravating division and factions. The formula that a united candidate is the only way for opposition parties to win presidential elections failed in the December election. There is no hope for a party that cannot produce competitive presidential candidates and looks to presidential candidates outside.

To elect a unified presidential candidate from the opposition camp, the party welcomed even a pro-North Korea camp on which moderates had shunned. The party also should seriously reflect on choosing Moon Jae-in as its candidate based on the belief that his hometown of Busan would result in victory. The party’s strategy to sweep votes in the Gyeongsang provinces resulted in the loss of votes in other regions, such as the Chungcheong and Gangwon provinces. Certain party members say the party must change its identity, name, color and even the office building to restore the party. Yet these measures are not likely to lead to revitalization.

For Korean democracy to grow healthier, the main opposition party must reform itself and be reborn as a responsible and rational progressive party. Publishing a white paper on the 2012 presidential election and conducting a self-examination through the paper should be the first step that the emergency committee takes. A study on the election defeat with a humble mind is the only way for the party to restore itself and regain the ability to produce presidents.