[ed] Opposition in disarray

NPAD needs to unite and be reborn as truly progressive

The conservative Park Geun-hye administration has disappointed voters with incompetency, irresponsibility and failures to keep campaign pledges since taking office in early 2013. Still, the liberal opposition has lost almost every election for the past two years. Why? It is not easy to analyze this political mystery, but people could see at least part of the reason on Friday.

At a party leaders’ meeting of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy, a non-mainstream lawmaker threatened to quit unless Chairman Moon Jae-in stepped down and took responsibility for the crushing defeats in the April 29 by-elections. A mainstream lawmaker criticized him of being a “blackmailer,” forcing the former to stomp out of the room, enraged at the personal humiliation.

A female leader then sang, “Good spring days are behind us,” allegedly to mark Parents’ Day. An elementary school class meeting must be better than this.

Election defeats accompany fierce intra-party debates and factional struggles, but the NPAD’s internal strife has gone beyond what voters can accept. The largest opposition party, with 130 out of 300 National Assembly seats, needs excruciating self-reform or it will wither away.

At the center of this chaotic schism is Moon, a former chief of staff to late President Roh Moo-hyun and the failed candidate in the 2012 election. The NPAD, is a jumble of the mainstream pro-Roh faction led by Moon, the non-mainstream pro-DJ (former President Kim Dae-jung) faction led by Rep. Park Jie-won, Kim’s former chief of staff, and a third, “neither-Roh-nor-DJ” faction. It is little surprise then that a former floor leader says intra-party bargaining is far harder than inter-party negotiations.

As the liberal Roh once put it, Korean politics ? in which strong anti-communist (or socialist) and pro-capitalist tradition combines with deep-rooted preferences of the populous southeastern region ? has been, and will be a “tilted playground” against progressives. To break this cartel of ideology and regionalism, the liberal opposition needs to unite as one in a self-sacrificing spirit, but the NPAD is farthest from this.

It seems as if too many NPAD members have been content with maintaining their parliamentary seats and key party positions rather than retaking political power from their conservative rivals.

The NPAD can look to two foreign models: the British Labor Party under Tony Blair, which ended a long period of conservative rule through overhauling the party, dropping vested interests and opening it to rank-and-file members and the public. Or the NPAD can go the way of the Japanese Socialist Party, which withered away by sticking to past ideals and increasingly irrelevant platforms. This resulted in the Liberal Democratic Party’s protracted one-party rule, in which rival factions changed power among themselves.

The NPAD should reinvent itself as a truly progressive political group. It ought to seek an inter-Korean thaw but draw a clear line from pro-North Korean elements, as well as pursue a more egalitarian society economically but find less radical and more practicable ways to do this.

President Park once revived her demolished party through enduring months in “tent headquarters. ” Moon should learn from his former rival, and throw himself into reforming his party and seeking larger goals. Otherwise, the “good spring days” for the NPAD ? between 1998 and 2007 ? will never return.

SOURCE: The Korea Times

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