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What’s missing in the recruitment? (KOR)

Jan 02,2020
IM JANG-HYUK
The author is a political news reporter at the JoongAng Ilbo.

The National Assembly’s erratic way of splitting a special session into three- or four-day smaller sessions continues. The cycle of no talks or compromises, clashes and pressing charges is repeated infinitely. Looking at the scene, politicians say that a constitutional revision for the parliamentary system could be an alternative. But voters are more inclined to change lawmakers themselves rather than such a system change.

The ruling Democratic Party’s (DP) announcement of its recruitment of two new faces also reflects such public sentiment. Choi Hae-young, 40, a former ballerina, is a professor of rehabilitation with myelopathy. Won Jong-geon, 26, is an IT company worker from an underprivileged household with a blind mother. I was moved by the press release summarizing their stories. There are rumors that they will get strategic nominations for a constituency or a proportional representation seat.

The impact of the recruitment was maximized thanks to the opaqueness of the process. The DP’s leadership committee and those in the election committee was not aware of it until the day before the announcement. After Yang Jeong-cheol, head of the Institute for Democracy, a DP think tank, first looks for new faces and DP Chairman Lee Hae-chan approves them, the party announces it right before its press briefing.

When it was revealed that the first two new recruits were “young,” aspiring candidates in the party’s youth committee complained. But their voices are oppressed — thanks to the power of “storytelling.” A DP lawmaker said that there are criticisms about the behind-the-scenes recruitment. But it is hard to direct complaints on them because they are recruited solely based on “storytelling.” In fact, the DP’s recruitment gets an “A” compared to the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) which stirred a controversy by recruiting former Gen. Park Chan-ju, who came under attack for his controversial remarks and abuse of power against soldiers.

But when the emotions subside and you go back to the question of “What type of people are you looking for,” you will be faced with a deep void. If the goal is to deviate from the violent Assembly, parties desperately need emergency blood transfusion of people with experiences and capacity to embody human politics of talks, reflection, persuasion and concession.

November 30 was the eighth anniversary of the passing of Kim Keun-tae, who is called an “eternal democrat.” He was an anti-war activist, but supported a motion to send additional troops to Iraq at the request of the United States in 2004.

He eventually conceded to the results of the debate regarding the dispatch of our soldiers. A former Seoul deputy mayor, who was Kim’s last aide, recalls that he was in agony after the vote.

He often kept his aides from fighting by saying, “Politics is an art of words.” Can the ruling party’s standard of recruitment return to the value of “democracy” from the emotional domain of “storytelling”?