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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on May 21)

Editorials from Korean Dailies 06:52 May 21, 2020

Survival of opposition
United Future Party's latest steps should be more than political gesture

The main opposition's floor leader Joo Ho-young has been making some eye-catching moves. At the very least, they are measured attempts at party survival, and at best, a path toward becoming a viable opposition of center-of-road conservatism. We will find out in the days ahead.

Firstly, Joo and members of the United Future Party attended the 40th anniversary ceremony of the May 18 Democratization Movement in Gwangju. There they also met with related organization officials, vowing to pass a bill for better treatment of the families of the victims. A few days earlier, the party issued a statement of apology for a series of disparaging remarks lawmakers made in the past -- one remark even referred to the democratic uprising as a "riot."

In a departure from last year, there was no hostile reception from the city's residents. The UFP should not lose this conciliatory atmosphere to demonstrate their actions go beyond political gestures.

The UFP, with its 103 seats in the upcoming 21st National Assembly, faces the 177-seat-holding ruling Democratic Party of Korea. That leaves it few options. This floor leader seems headed for the right direction in his step toward bipartisanship. In a meeting with former Assembly members, he further signaled that the UFP was a bipartisan partner by saying that the "province of politics is to bring the people together."

He will also attend the upcoming commemorative day marking the death of former President Roh Moo-hyun.

The internal make-up of the UFP also looks favorable for a party revamp, with freshmen lawmakers holding 56 percent of its seats in the 21st National Assembly. The party is also now largely absent of major factions affiliated former party leaders.

This can translate into bipartisanship to pass such bills as those aimed improving the people's livelihoods endangered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, the UFP should fully cooperate with the recently-launched May 18 Truth Investigation Commission. As President Moon Jae-in has said, its purpose is not for punishment but for reconciliation and recording history correctly.

If the party has a view to uphold the views of its constituents, it should exercise "healthy" opposition, not obstructionism, for a constructive balance between the ruling and the opposition blocs.

But before it can do that, the UFP has to get its own house in order. The party should decide on how its emergency leadership planned under former-bureaucrat-turned political kingpin Kim Chong-in will proceed or if it will be somebody other than Kim. It should also wrap up the pledged merger with the satellite Future Korea Party. Then, the party needs to proffer reasonable alternatives for better legislative performance instead of ideology-and partisan-driven conflicts in these increasingly difficult times.
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