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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Jan. 26)

Politics 07:11 January 26, 2023

'Orderly lethargy' in the PPP

Na Kyung-won, a former floor leader of the People Power Party (PPP), has finally been cleared of all suspicions over her possible bid for the leadership of the governing party. In a press conference on Wednesday, she said she would withdraw her bid for the leadership if it could help calm deepening public concerns about the division and confusion in the party and if her decision can help the party return to unity and harmony.

The primary responsibility for the confusion in the PPP falls on Na herself. She gave the impression that she considered running for the party leadership while keeping her two posts — vice chair of the presidential Committee on Low Birthrate and Aging Society and special ambassador for climate change. To make matters worse, she promised to write off financial debts for couples with newborns without any coordination with the government. After President Yoon Suk Yeol fired her from the two posts, she attributed it to her opponents in the presidential office and the PPP. That is not professional. She must take responsibility for her dillydallying until her final decision to withdraw from the race to elect a new leader of the party in March.

But her withdrawal also represents the irrationality widespread in the PPP. In the press conference, Na, a former four-term lawmaker, demanded the conservative party never give up "embrace and respect," adding, "Disorderly liveliness is better than orderly lethargy." Her remarks revealed the bare face of the PPP. Befitting her desperate call for compassion, the party behaved in a uniform way. After she hinted at the possibility for the candidacy, the presidential office started attacking her together with pro-Yoon lawmakers who wanted Rep. Kim Gi-hyeon, also a former floor leader with close ties with President Yoon, to take the helm of the minority party.

Fifty first-term PPP lawmakers even issued a joint statement to oppose her candidacy. Some members compared it to "collective violence" against her. Nevertheless, others tried to find any dirt on her wealth. The changing of rules to elect a new party leader solely based on the votes of party members could reflect the president's intention to push Rep. Kim as new chairman of the PPP. This is not democracy.

Earlier, President Yoon expressed concern that he would be in a vegetative state if the governing party fails to win in next year's parliamentary elections. In fact, the future of his administration hinges on the election results given the minority status of the PPP in the legislature. The party has vivid memories of crushing defeats after its leadership was sharply split over nominations for legislative seats.

But the results of parliamentary elections are determined by votes of the general public, not by party members only. If the PPP should elect a new leader totally based on loyalty to the president, voters will not support him.

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