Won Hee-ryong, who was elected governor of Jejudo Island in the local elections last week, has asked his rival contender Shin Koo-bum to lead his transition team. The unprecedented move by Won, a reform-minded member of the conservative ruling Saenuri Party, prompted strong protests from the liberal main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, to which Shin belongs.
In the face of the backlash, the governor-elect postponed the announcement of his transition committee, which was scheduled for Sunday, saying it would take a few more days to appoint the best possible figure as its head.
From the viewpoint of political common sense, he may have gone one step too far by making the unusual gesture. Won, who has expressed his aspiration to run for president, seems to have hoped to further heighten his political stature by embracing his election rival.
However, it is still hard to side with the claim by opposition party officials that Won’s move was nothing but a “vulgar political show” aimed at boosting his image by using his rival candidate. True, politicians are required to show a certain level of responsibility as members of a political entity in party politics. But this does not mean they should be blamed for reaching out beyond partisan lines in the interest of the entire electorate. Won appeared to have made this case to some extent when he vowed to bring all provincial residents together to further develop the resort island during a news conference after his election.
In a wider sense, the results of last week’s local polls, which split the seats of metropolitan and provincial government heads nearly evenly between the rival parties, can be seen as reflecting the voters’ wish to see strengthened bipartisan cooperation in the aftermath of the deadly ferry sinking in April. It may be a time to discard the dichotomous political framework to overcome a range of challenges facing the nation. Even the idea of forming a coalition government between conservative and liberal parties should not be inconceivable.