Rebuild ruling party
New DPK chairman should reflect diverse opinions
The ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) elected five-term lawmaker Song Young-gil as its new chairman during its convention Sunday. In a highly-contested race, Song, a former Incheon mayor, earned 35.6 percent of the vote, defeating runner-up Rep. Hong Young-pyo by 0.59 percentage points. The party also selected five Supreme Council members ― Reps. Kim Yong-min, Kim Young-bae, Back Hye-ryun, Kang Byung-won and Jun Hye-sook.
We believe the DPK members have chosen Song, widely regarded as representing the party's non-mainstreamers, as the new chairman with expectations that he will rebuild the party following its humiliating defeat in the April 7 mayoral by-elections in Seoul and Busan. He is also tasked with managing a primary election to choose the party's candidate for the next presidential election slated for March 2022.
In an interview with the press after he was elected, Song vowed to do everything possible to rectify the party's past mistakes and set out better policies to contain the surging COVID-19 pandemic and stabilize the overheated housing market. The change in the party leadership was inevitable as the DPK and the government's policy failures led directly to the crushing loss in the by-elections. It is necessary for Song to promote close consultations and coordination between the party and the government in the policymaking process.
In an acceptance speech Song promised to do his best to comply with the voters' call for change. He cited five key issues ― housing, vaccinations, semiconductors, climate change and a peace process on the Korean Peninsula ― on which he will focus to ensure the success of the President Moon Jae-in administration.
His most pressing task is how to speed up much-needed party reform to better reflect diverse opinions from all walks of life. However, it is worrisome that the new lineup of the party's top decision-making Supreme Council is composed of hardline pro-Moon figures.
Song pledged more efforts to strengthen intraparty communications, yet at the same time he needs to come to terms with the pro-Moon hardliners who have been under growing criticism for their wayward behavior and lack of capability in dealing with major pending issues.
According to a recent survey conducted by Gallup Korea, President Moon's approval rating plummeted to 29 percent. This means Moon is on the verge of becoming a lame duck president about a year before his term ends in May 2022. Against this backdrop, the ruling party should keep in mind that if it fails to push for internal reform and perform better, it may face a rocky road ahead.
The DPK should do all it can to seek cooperation from the opposition parties, despite its supermajority of 174 seats in the 300-member National Assembly. In this vein, Moon's invitation to Rep. Kim Gi-hyeon, the newly elected floor leader of the main opposition People Power Party (PPP), for a luncheon is seen as a positive step ― although Kim flatly rejected it. The ruling camp, however, should continue its efforts to have dialogue with the opposition, and listen to the people in a more humble manner.
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