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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on April 21)

All News 07:01 April 21, 2020

Pathetic UFP
Democracy needs strong, sound opposition

Internal strife is worsening in the main opposition United Future Party (UFP) following its significant defeat in the April 15 general election.

In a ceremony to disband the party's campaign office, Friday, acting Chairman Rep. Shim Jae-chul said the only thing the party must do to regain trust among voters is to strive for full-scale reform. The question is who should ― and could ― lead this effort. Rival factions are united in the call for reform, but are divided over who should head the party during this post-election transition period.

Since Hwang Kyo-ahn stepped down as UFP chairman to take responsibility for the election defeat, it had been widely speculated that Kim Chong-in, who joined the party just months ago to co-head the UFP's campaign office for the general election, would become an interim leader. But some party bigwigs and lawmakers-elect ― including Rep. Kim Tae-heum, who has been elected for a third term ― and their supporters have publicly raised objections to this, claiming the best option for the party is to hold an early national convention to choose its new leader and other decision-makers. They argue Kim is not qualified to lead the party, regardless of whether it is an interim position or not, because he shares responsibility for the disastrous election results as a co-campaign chief, and more importantly, he is not a "loyal" UFP member.

It is pathetic to see the largest conservative party remain in disarray when the members need to unite and work together more than ever. What is urgent for the party is to overcome the election debacle, and draw up a post-election strategy aimed at holding the powerful ruling party in check. The ongoing internal power struggle cannot be worse because it is repeating past failures. In fact, the ruling bloc has secured a dominant position in the National Assembly by taking 180 of the 300 parliamentary seats up for grabs, while the UFP and its affiliated party garnered only 103 seats. This marked the conservative party's fourth consecutive defeat to the rival liberal party in national elections.

In the first opinion survey conducted after the parliamentary polls, the UFP saw its approval rating plunge to 28.4 percent ― the lowest level since its founding. On the other hand, President Moon Jae-in's approval rating has reached its highest level in 18 months at 58.7 percent, and that of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) also surged to the highest level in 21 months at 46.8 percent.

Speculation is already circulating that the DPK may attempt to revise the Constitution in the next National Assembly, scheduled to begin its four-year term on May 30. If the old saying that power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely is correct, the existence of a strong and sound opposition party is a necessity for a successful democracy. But the UFP is still living in the past, which is tragic for this country. It should change drastically, and this is for its own survival.

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