Com­mu­ni­ca­tion is key, says new NPAD leader

JoongAng Daily - - National - BY SEO SE­UNG-WOOK

Rep. Woo Yoon-keun, who was elected floor leader of the trou­bled New Pol­i­tics Al­liance for Democ­racy (NPAD) last week, has plenty on his plate. But in an in­ter­view with the JoongAng Ilbo on Tues­day he said “com­mu­ni­ca­tion and the form­ing of a spe­cial com­mit­tee de­voted to con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment” are his top pri­or­i­ties.

“I want to build a healthy dis­cus­sion cul­ture,” Woo said at the be­gin­ning of the in­ter­view.

The for­mer lawyer and third-term law­maker who ac­cepted the ba­ton from Rep. Park Young-sun last Thurs­day and will hold the po­si­tion through May, seemed to have the di­vi­sions within his party in mind.

At the same time, he ap­peared de­ter­mined to drive away the wide­spread per­cep­tion that he isn’t tough enough for the job.

“I am not a pure paci­fist,” he re­peated sev­eral times through­out the in­ter­view. He stressed that his floor leader po­si­tion will force him to take on some tough fights.

But he also pledged he won’t swear or ask for the im­pos­si­ble.

His oth­er­wise calm tone rose when the topic of the con­ver­sa­tion shifted to the de­bate in the po­lit­i­cal sphere about con­sti­tu­tional amend­ments.

“Why couldn’t we es­tab­lish a spe­cial com­mit­tee for a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment when we have cre­ated so many other spe­cial com­mit­tees be­fore?” he asked.

The fol­low­ing are ex­cerpts from the in­ter­view. Q. You promised to cre­ate an op­po­si­tion party that is “ra­tio­nal and dig­ni­fied” upon be­ing elected. A. You can’t re­sort to bom­bard­ing peo­ple with rough words just be­cause you are an op­po­si­tion law­maker. The op­po­si­tion had this feel­ing of eth­i­cal su­pe­ri­or­ity un­der the mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship. But power is cre­ated through elec­tions now. Law­mak­ers should have some class and show a sense of sta­bil­ity. Your party suf­fered se­vere in­ner tur­moil when ne­go­ti­a­tions were un­der way over the spe­cial bill for in­ves­ti­gat­ing the truth be­hind the Se­wol tragedy.

The hard­lin­ers and mod­er­ate fac­tion had a lot of con­flict. The ef­fi­ciency wasn’t very high be­cause their fight was with­out a nexus. It gets ef­fec­tive if you can per­suade a mod­er­ate when the cir­cum­stance forces you to fight, and if you can per­suade hard­lin­ers into ne­go­ti­at­ing when needed. Do you agree with the me­dia’s as­sess­ment of you that you tend to take the mid­dle course with­out choos­ing a spe­cific fac­tion, even though you be­long to for­mer Pres­i­dent Roh Moo-hyun’s group in a broad sense?

I have never been loyal to any in­di­vid­ual or fac­tion. I have my own phi­los­o­phy. But I have my own opin­ion when it comes to a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment. Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye op­poses an amend­ment. Is it pos­si­ble?

One of the rea­sons I ran for floor leader is to pub­li­cize the fact that the po­lit­i­cal strife we cur­rently suf­fer from stems from our power struc­ture. Has any­thing got­ten bet­ter even after we have been re­plac­ing almost half of the par­lia­men­tary seats in ev­ery gen­eral elec­tion? It [the prospects for the cur­rent sys­tem] is bleak. What do you think of the fact that hard­lin­ers who have a louder voice tend to de­ter­mine the party plat­form dur­ing a gen­eral meet­ing.

I don’t think hard­lin­ers are nec­es­sar­ily bad. Rather, the rul­ing party and op­po­si­tion’s re­la­tion­ship is struc­turally wrong. The pre­de­ces­sor of the Saenuri Party was re­ally tough and strong in the 17th Na­tional Assem­bly [be­tween May 2004 and May 2008, when it was in op­po­si­tion]. It found fault with ev­ery sin­gle de­tail. What would you do if a gen­eral meet­ing of your party re­fuses to ac­cept what was al­ready agreed upon by the rul­ing and op­po­si­tion par­ties, which is ex­actly what hap­pened un­der Rep. Park Young-sun in ne­go­ti­a­tions over the Se­wol bill?

I would follow what the law­mak­ers say. If they refuse to ac­cept an agree­ment, it means they want me [floor leader] to ne­go­ti­ate again. I am not om­nipo­tent and it is nat­u­ral to follow the re­sult of what’s dis­cussed at the gen­eral meet­ing. There is a ru­mor that some NPAD law­mak­ers are brac­ing to es­tab­lish a new party rooted in the Je­olla re­gion. Your con­stituency is in Gwangyang, South Je­olla.

It’s true that peo­ple in Je­olla aren’t re­ally fa­vor­able to our party. But we have never achieved suc­cess after di­vid­ing our­selves. We should unite forces.

Woo Yoon-keun

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