Opposition shifts N.K. rights policy

By Korea Herald

DP leader vows to adopt ‘political innovation’

  • Published : Jan 13, 2014 - 20:02
  • Updated : Jan 13, 2014 - 20:02
Democratic Party chairman Rep. Kim Han-gil holds a press conference at the National Assembly in Seoul on Monday. (Lee Gil-dong/The Korea Herald)
Democratic Party chairman Rep. Kim Han-gil vowed Monday to take the lead in changes needed for the progressive bloc, and to lead the party to victory in the June 4 provincial elections through “change and innovation.”

Kim also declared that the DP would resist medical and railway privatization, and repeated the party’s year-old demand for a special counsel investigation into the National Intelligence Service’s alleged role in the 2012 presidential election.

Kim, however, left room for interpretation regarding the party’s relationship with independent Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo’s new party, unlike other DP officials who ruled out an alliance with Ahn’s party in the June 4 elections. Although Ahn has yet to launch his party, surveys show Ahn’s party would outperform the DP by a large margin, even in the main opposition’s stronghold of the Jeolla provinces.

“(Ahn and the DP) are competing through political innovation. (The DP) defines the relationship as that of ‘competing comrades,’” Kim said.

He added that Ahn and his party are collaborating on outstanding issues such as launching a special counsel probe into the NIS, but are competing with each other with regards to changing old political practices.

“However, I think that others do not want such competition giving the Saenuri Party unexpected gains.”

Kim also touched on Seoul’s North Korea policies and Human Rights Act, which are sensitive issues for the main opposition.

The right wing has accused the DP of taking too soft an approach toward North Korea. The main opposition has also been blamed for helping allegedly pro-North Korean Unified Progressive Party members join the parliament by forming a pan-progressive alliance in the 2012 general elections.

The North Korean Human Rights Act, which has floated since its initial proposal in 2005, has also been the source of much bickering between the DP and Saenuri Party.

The ruling party’s attempts at legislating the bill have been foiled by strong opposition from the progressive bloc. Since then DP lawmakers have proposed similar acts that focus on providing aid to North Koreans in an effort to avoid riling Pyongyang.

“I think it is important to include in the bill actions we can take to improve human rights in North Korea. The party will draw up a single proposal, which can then be used in discussions with the Saenuri Party.” Kim said.

As for the party’s North Korean policy, Kim said that it will be based on “national unity,” without elaborating on the details other than that the new policy will differ from that of late President Kim Dae-jung’s Sunshine Policy since North Korea is now a nuclear-armed state.

Regarding criticism that the DP took excessively hard-line positions last year, Kim said that there were calls for him to take even more drastic actions.

“I think (the party) is being appropriately hard-line. The DP does not decide whether to be hard-line or not and act accordingly. The intensity of DP’s actions are determined by the stances taken by the president and the Saenuri Party,” Kim said. He added that the DP was striving to conduct “politics of coexistence” but its efforts have been foiled by the ruling party.

“Just as palms need to come together to make a sound, (politics of coexistence) is not something that can be achieved with our intentions. There are limits to what we can do with a ruling party that only looks toward Cheong Wa Dae.”

By Choi He-suk (