Dhaka, Bangladesh
For productive politics

For productive politics

By Na Jeong-ju

President Moon Jae-in's meeting with the floor leaders of the five major political parties last week was quite impressive. Moon was seen listening carefully to Kim Sung-tae, floor leader of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP), every time he talked, and Kim behaved very nicely throughout the meeting. It was a pleasant surprise to see an LKP leader exchange ideas with political opponents in a serious manner, putting aside any feelings of rivalry. Kim said after the meeting it was fun to talk with Moon, and he expects to have another "productive" meeting soon. The atmosphere would have been much different if Hong Joon-pyo, the outspoken former LKP leader, had been there. Without Hong, the LKP appears to be changing for the better. More importantly, the political leaders had an opportunity to work together to open an era of "cooperative politics," which has long been regarded as an oxymoron here. Members of the old guard have recently been returning to the leadership of the ruling and opposition parties, but this is not bad for cooperation. Though there is no freshness, they have experience and wisdom. There is no argument that Moon cannot be a successful president without their help. It is clear why Moon should cooperate with them. There are grave diplomatic issues he must deal with effectively to achieve the goal of denuclearization of North Korea. Domestically, he has an urgent task to reform the electoral system. The second half of this year will be a critical period for Moon in addressing these issues. He needs to have a successful summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang in September to consolidate peace and lay the foundation for denuclearization. Parties are also expected to begin negotiations soon for electoral reform. Moon needs cooperation from opposition parties to push this agenda forward. While it is important to make a breakthrough in various fields of inter-Korean cooperation at the upcoming summit in Pyongyang, Moon should secure consistency and sustainability in inter-Korean agreements afterwards. Under Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun, South Korea signed many agreements with North Korea, but many of them were not realized, and some were even abandoned later. This was largely because of a lack of cooperation with conservative parties. Moon should learn these lessons from the past failures. One of the foundations of the inter-Korean peace and coexistence is to secure a solid system in which inter-Korean accords can be implemented continuously without being disrupted by the transition of power here. Moon is asking the National Assembly to ratify future inter-Korean agreements in this context. But this is not enough. One viable option is to create a neutral consultative body with opposition parties to discuss how to handle North Korea and draw up related policies. Moon also can appoint figures recommended by opposition parties as unification or foreign ministers. But it is not only up to the President to establish an effective system of dealing with North Korea. Conservative parties should also be more open-minded in talking with liberals to find solutions to North Korea-related issues. Many of their past leaders even considered having dialogue with North Korea as a taboo. Former presidents often blamed lack of cooperation from opposition parties for policy failures. This was partially true. However, the President should first reach out and treat them as real partners for governance. Moon does not have to take the lead in pushing for electoral reform and a constitutional amendment. There are many experienced politicians who can handle these tasks. Cooperative politics is not possible unless the President yields first……………..Old boys return Defeated sweepingly by the ruling party, both these opposition parties have opted to reach back to the tried-and tested leaderships of the so-called "old boys" network in politics. When Ahn Cheol-soo of the Bareunmirae Party (BMP) and Hong Joon-pyo of the Liberty Korea Party (LKP) left their leadership posts in the wake of the June 13 local elections, a fresh set of upcoming leaders seemed all but poised to take the helm. Four-term lawmaker Chung Dong-young has been elected the new leader of the minor opposition Party for Democracy and Peace (PDP). Chung served as unification minister in 2004 and 2005 under the late former President Roh Moo-hyun. Park Jie-won, a veteran politician affiliated with the PDP, said the comeback of the "old boys" in major political parties may well be a better way for the "rule of cooperation" between the presidential office and the political parties. Park made the statement in early August while appearing on state radio, even as he had opposed Chung for the leadership of his party. The PDP is not alone. Veteran politician and political scientist Sohn Hak-kyu, 71, said that he would run for the BMP leadership. "Our BMP will aim for future-oriented not obsolete liberalism, a reformist conservatism not an outdated one. This is the path our party must follow," he said. "To sum up, our party should re-establish itself as a centrist- reform party that encompasses both future-looking liberalism and reformist conservatism." The ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) will elect its new leader on Aug. 25, to succeed the outgoing Rep. Choo Mi-ae. Currently, three people are in the running ? veteran politician Lee Hae-chan who served as prime minister under the Roh Moo-hyun administration, former economy minister Kim Jin-pyo also under the Roh administration and the relatively young politician Rep. Song Yong-gil. A recent poll conducted by Realmeter showed Lee leading the race. If both Sohn and Lee are elected to respective party leadership positions, President Moon Jae-in may find it easier to talk and consult with both the ruling and opposition parties. The understanding in Korean politics is that veteran politicians are more versatile in the art of compromise. The re-emergence of veteran politicians indicates that smaller parties are not only struggling to survive, but also that Korea's political parties have not had the time to nurture a broad base of next- generation political leaders. The few potential candidates the parties had all ran and lost in the May 2017 presidential election. They foremost include former chief Ahn. Once such a leader loses, it takes some time for them to make a comeback. The return of veterans also cautiously raises anticipation that they can counterbalance the relatively young, reform- minded secretaries at the presidential office. All leading politicians in office or active have been inducted and trained under the so-called "Three Kims" ? former Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Kim Young-sam, and former Prime Minister Kim Jong-pil. With the death of Kim Jong-pil, the tradition of political bigwigs nurturing and forming political parties has become obsolete.

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