Progress of progressives
In-house report should serve as catalyst for rebirth
Korea’s political progressives, or at least cooler-headed groups among them, are struggling hard to survive through a massive rebuilding process.
Nothing shows this better than the reform plan unveiled by the Unified Progressive Party’s (UPP) special panel Monday. The report is so filled with self-correcting contents that one can hardly believe it came from a party which had called for changing almost everything in South Korean society until only a few weeks ago.
Such self-transforming efforts are quite belated but welcome, and should deserve support in and outside the party when the reformists clash with the pro-North Korean faction adhering to the status quo, later this month.
Most noticeable in the in-house report are parts reestablishing the progressive party’s stance on North Korea and the United States. It rightly calls for criticizing the North’s nuclear adventurism, dismal human rights situation and third-generational power succession, while easing its previously strong opposition to the Korea-U.S. alliance, and demands for the U.S. troops’ withdrawal from South Korea.
All this reflects the reformists’ correct, appropriate perception of reality in international politics. Even by the UPP’s extremely nationalistic, anti-imperialistic standards, what’s happening in North Korea deserves due criticism and calls for correction. Their recognition of the need for the U.S. military presence on the Korean Peninsula also should not be very surprising, considering even the late Kim Jong-il once admitted such a need even after Korea’s reunification for maintaining regional balance of power.
Equally reasonable is its withdrawal of calls for radical restructuring of family-controlled conglomerates through forced breakups in favor of proper controls on them. In this era of nationality-driven capitalism, the dismantling of chaebol benefits foreign investors more than workers here.
Last but not least, the report rightly tackled the UPP’s long overdue task of internal democracy, or lack thereof. The outrageous election fraud in picking lawmaker candidates for proportional representation and consequent violence at the party convention revealed part of the UPP’s naked face, driving away even voters sympathetic with progressive values. These and other ugly aspects of the leftist party were due to their end-justifies-the-means way of thinking, a relative sense of moral superiority and we-versus-them victim mentality.
These expedient behaviors were somewhat forgivable when the political progressives were dissidents persecuted by dictators, but are no longer so since they entered into real politics by forming a party, which should put responsibility to the public as well as its own members ahead of all else.
Korea, or any sound society for that matter, needs political progressives not just because a bird can fly only when it has both right and left wings but because it should have someone to care about human equality and co-prosperity amid modern capitalism of unbridled free-market idolatry and heedless self-interest.
So the conservatives need to stop indiscriminate bashing of all progressives in the name of defending the national identity, and let ― and help ― moderate, more level-headed groups emerge as winners.
From the standpoint of the progressives, the ongoing crisis can prove to be a mixed blessing for their rebirth ― only to those who reflect and reform themselves. They must realize the keyword in Korea today is not revolution but evolution.