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Obstinance on both sides

Sept 02,2017
The first regular session of the National Assembly since the launch of the liberal Moon Jae-in administration opened Friday. But prospects are not bright as opposition parties hold a majority in the legislature. As it turned out, the main opposition Liberty Korea Party defined the Moon administration’s governance style as a “new variety of the bad practices of the past,” the kind the president himself vowed to root out. The opposition People’s Party, now led by its former chairman Ahn Cheol-soo, also declared all-out war against the ruling party.

The regular session of the Assembly this time is a prelude to a ferocious battle ahead of local elections next June. Opposition parties will most likely try to thwart the government and ruling party’s policy goals in order to prove their raison d’etre. Clashes are expected over a myriad of issues — such as next year’s budget, welfare programs, tax hikes, reform of law enforcement agencies and the government’s bold push to wean Korea off of nuclear power.

However, the environment at home and abroad poses serious threats to our national security and prosperity. Conflict and confrontation among politicians will only deepen growing public concerns about the possibility of war on the Korean Peninsula after North Korea’s nuclear threats and a further economic slowdown. If politicians are engrossed in political fights without a sense of crisis, that constitutes a serious crime beyond the realm of dereliction of duty.

What they need, above all, is cooperation and the political skills to overcome their perception gaps. In particular, the government and ruling party must take the regular session of the Assembly as an opportunity to change their domineering governance style.

The nation can hardly go forward without some bipartisan agreement. Despite the need to cooperate with the opposition to push the 100 national tasks President Moon pledged to tackle, the ruling party has never demonstrated mature leadership. Instead, it simply pressures the opposition to follow its lead, citing massive protests against the government as manifested in the candlelight vigils that led to the ouster of President Park Geun-hye.

The ruling party must accept the new political reality in which it is a minority and respect the opposition. Self-righteousness and arrogance are their biggest enemies. The opposition also must mull why their rival is enjoying overwhelming support from the public. Both sides must find a way out of the current political deadlock.

JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 2, Page 26