New opposition leader
Party moves further to left
The Democratic United Party has moved further to the left in its ideological spectrum. It is more progressive now than a decade ago when Kim Dae-jung led it. The main opposition party has many questionable platforms that have yet to be clarified.
Han Myeong-sook, 67, who was the nation's first woman prime minister, became the new leader of the party Sunday. She has the opposite image to Park Geun-hye as Han was victimized in the late 1970s under the Park Chung-hee regime for her pro-democracy struggles.
The other five leaders include advocates of anti-FTA and anti-chaebol policies as well as engagement with North Korea.
Pro-Roh Moo-hyun figures take center stage in the leadership of the party. It includes labor unions and civic leaders.
The leadership race was the nation’s first political experiment as 800,000 citizens participated in the voting through social networking services. Mobile voting has a serious drawback in over-representing the younger generation dubbed “digital natives” and under-representing the senior generation, called “digital immigrants.”
The party is likely to toe the line of anything but President Lee Myung-bak policies. It is to distance itself from conglomerates and the rich and to advocate the resumption of engagement with the North.
It is premature for the opposition to be in a victorious mood just because the governing Grand National Party is in shambles following its vote-buying scandal involving the National Assembly speaker. The current unpopularity of the conservative GNP does not necessarily mean voters will swing to the liberal opposition party.
The DUP must ask itself why it lost previous presidential and parliamentary elections. President Lee won by a landslide in 2007, ironically on the back of President Roh Moo-hyun’s mal-administration, including punitive taxation and confrontation with the media. Under Roh's leadership, Korea-U.S. relations were tense. His profligate welfare policy widened the fiscal deficit.
The party falsely believes that its popularity will rise just by criticizing the governing camp. It needs its own initiatives and visions if it wants to win the presidential and parliamentary elections this year.
What the people want is not its ideology. People want jobs and anti-polarization steps. The party will gain respect when it supports small- and medium-sized firms without cornering conglomerates. It must bolster welfare programs without undermining fiscal health. Its peace initiative with the North will win the sympathy of conservatives when it takes the romanticist element out of the Sunshine Policy. Its anti-FTA stance will strain Korea's alliance with the United States. Without FTAs, Korea will have difficulty in energizing the economy.
Its Lone Star-bashing will scare away foreign investors.
The DUP must not repeat the same folly of triggering resistance through a knee-jerk punitive taxation on the rich. Its anti-polarization steps should not escalate tension between management and unions, the rich and the poor and the privileged and the alienated. What the party needs is reform amid stability, not reform for instability.