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Competence is key

July 23,2018
The country seems to have returned to the days of former President Roh Moo-hyun. President Moon Jae-in, the speaker of the National Assembly, the floor leader of the ruling Democratic Party and even the emergency committee head of the opposition Liberty Korea Party are all pro-Roh politicians. That’s not all. Four candidates running in the election for the next chairperson of the ruling party also had strong affiliations with the late President Roh and current President Moon, who served as Roh’s chief of staff a decade ago.

The four candidates trying to take the helm of the ruling party are Kim Jin-pyo, deputy prime minister for the economy under the Roh administration; Rep. Choi Jae-sung, a lawmaker of the DP; Rep. Park Beom-kye, a DP lawmaker with close ties with President Moon; and Rep. Lee Hae-chan, the party’s longest-serving seventh term lawmaker representing both the pro-Roh and pro-Moon factions in the DP.

Among the four candidates for the chairman of the ruling party, Rep. Lee, in particular, attracts our attention. Given his 30-year career as legislator and prime minister under the Roh administration, Lee could be unrivaled. But opponents are enraged over his public remarks urging a “complete destruction of conservatives” in Korea. The old politician’s return also triggered criticism that he can hardly meet the call of the times. With Lee joining the election on Aug. 25, the battle will most likely end up a fierce four-way contest among members of the pro-Roh and pro-Moon factions.

When a president’s approval rating is high, it could be natural for ruling party candidates to promote their personal connections with the president. But it is not the time to select head of the ruling party based on factional supports. As Bill Clinton famously said, “It’s the economy, stupid!” The public disgruntlement against the worst-ever unemployment rate and the relentless push for the minimum wage hike are posing a serious threat to the government, along with declining exports.

If the pace continues, the new leader of the ruling party will face criticisms from companies, labor unions, interest groups and opposition parties for the next two years. We hope the eight candidates, including the four with close ties with Roh and Moon, never try to capitalize on their relations with them. Instead, they must present visions for our economy if they do not want to repeat the mistakes of the Park Geun-hye administration, which fell due to then-ruling party lawmakers’ campaign to take advantage of their connections with her.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 23, Page 30