[Editorial] Back in parliament, opposition party must continue its fight

Posted on : 2013-09-24 15:55 KST Modified on : 2013-09-24 15:55 KST

When the Democratic Party declared on Sep. 23 that it would return to the National Assembly, South Korean politics entered a new phase. Once the party returns to the legislature from the tents where it has been protesting for 54 consecutive days, it appears that the regular session of the National Assembly will be able to proceed normally.

While the Democratic Party (DP) insisted that it would continue its efforts both inside and outside of the National Assembly, the focus is bound to shift in that direction once the assembly is in session. In other words, the stage for the next showdown between the ruling and opposition parties will be the legislature’s budget session.

The DP’s decision to return to the legislature doesn’t in itself warrant blame. Considering that there is much that must be done to improve the livelihood of the Korean people, in a certain sense it is only natural for the country’s largest opposition party to go back to the assembly and get to work.

But it is shameful that the Democratic Party - a powerful opposition party with more than 120 lawmakers - wrapped up its 54 days of camping outdoors without anything to show for it.

No behavior worthy of an opposition party can be found in the Democratic Party’s fight with the ruling party, which was triggered by evidence that the National Intelligence Services (NIS) interfered in last December’s presidential election. It is indeed rare for an opposition party to be as powerless in checking the ruling party as the DP is today.

The DP made a lot of noise, but they were forced to fold their tents before they could take the political lead even once.

One of the most embarrassing examples of this was how helpless the DP was during the parliamentary investigation into the NIS’s interference in the election. They failed to interrogate or deal with the main witnesses who refused to even take an oath before testifying.

Amid all the controversy about the NIS, it was not even clear whether the DP had any realistic objectives. Each time the situation took an unexpected turn, party members fumbled about trying to decide what to do, opening themselves up to an attack from the ruling party.

The DP is not entirely to blame for the current political debacle. It is obvious that the primary cause of the current gridlock is President Park Geun-hye.

The forces controlling the government have turned the political situation on its head by making one rash move after the other during the controversy over the NIS. First, they released a 2007 inter-Korean summit transcript, and then they launched an investigation into Unified Progressive Party lawmaker Lee Seok-ki.

While the ruling party may seem to have things under their thumb for the moment, if one takes the long view, all of their actions are bound to work against them.

Nevertheless, the DP’s failure is partly responsible for the depressing direction in which South Korean politics has been moving.

Now that the DP has returned to parliament, it must not fall into the same blunders it has been making. It must set realistic objectives and find an effective means of carrying on the fight.

There are plenty of problems connected with democracy and people’s livelihoods that need addressing. These include reforms of the NIS and the prosecutors, the government’s backpedaling on welfare and economic democratization, tax code reform, and lingering questions about the Four Major Rivers Project.

As the largest opposition party, the DP bears a large responsibility both to speak for the people who are suffering because of Park’s reversal on her campaign pledges and her move away from democracy, and to block that reversal.

By firmly standing up to the ruling party, which continues to move in the wrong direction in the areas of politics, the economy, and society, the DP must prove that it is worthy of the label of the opposition party. Under the leadership of Kim Han-gil, the Democratic Party must put all of its efforts into becoming a paragon of fighting for its causes in a reasonable way during this session of the National Assembly.


Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]


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