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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on April 9)

07:01 April 09, 2021

Opposition's landslide victory
:Voters made relentless judgment on ruling camp

The main opposition People Power Party (PPP) won a landslide victory in Wednesday's mayoral by-elections in Seoul and Busan, dealing a fatal blow to the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK). The outcome was a direct result of the arrogance, self-righteousness, hypocrisy and incompetence that have characterized the Moon Jae-in administration and the DPK over the last four years.

According to the National Election Commission, Oh Se-hoon of the PPP defeated his DPK rival, Park Young-sun, 57.5 percent to 39.1 percent to become mayor of Seoul. In Busan, PPP candidate Park Heong-joon routed Kim Young-choon of the DPK 62.6 percent to 34.4 percent. The results ended the DPK's winning streak in four elections ― the 2016 general election, the 2017 presidential poll, the 2018 local elections and the 2020 general election. However, the by-elections, seen as a bellwether for the March 2022 presidential poll, have opened the way for the conservative PPP's political comeback.

The DPK's crushing loss was mainly due to the Moon government's policy failures. Most of all, the administration has failed to check runaway housing prices although it had implemented 24 sets of anti-speculation measures. More and more people have become disgruntled about the government policy of suppressing demand by putting a cap on mortgages and imposing heavier taxes on homeowners. Ill-conceived measures have also promoted a surge in rents. Homeowners have been hit by tax bombs.

Making matters worse, a land speculation scandal involving employees of the state-run Korea Land and Housing Corp. (LH) has invited public rage. Twenty former and incumbent LH officials are suspected of having purchased farmland in satellite cities near Seoul by using inside information about a residential development project. Some lawmakers and presidential staff have also come under criticism for raising rents sharply for homes they were renting out right before a 5-percent cap was introduced last July.

More seriously, President Moon and his party have reneged on their promise to build a fair and just society. They seem to forget that they took power by taking advantage of candlelit rallies that eventually led to the impeachment of then President Park Geun-hye for corruption and abuse of power in 2017. Moon has concentrated on eliminating the "old evils" of the Park administration. But he has been long on words but short on action in advocating for fairness and justice. The ruling elite has become hypocritical by adopting a double standard, failing to keep the moral high ground.

One of the typical examples of hypocrisy was a corruption and admissions fraud scandal surrounding former Justice Minister Cho Kuk and his family. The Moon government mobilized all possible means to prevent then Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl from investigating not only Cho but also ranking officials, presidential secretaries and DPK lawmakers over allegations ranging from bribe-taking and influence-peddling to election rigging. In the name of prosecutorial reform, the ruling bloc has been engrossed in weakening the investigation power of the prosecution in order to cover up its own wrongdoings.

The Moon administration and the DPK should humbly accept voters' relentless judgment on their mishandling of state affairs and policy blunders. Otherwise, they cannot regain the public trust. Moon is feared to become a lame-duck president with a year or so left before his term ends in May 2022. First of all, Moon and his policymakers should reflect on their mistakes and work out new policies to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic, stabilize housing prices, improve people's living standards and usher in a fair and transparent society. For this, it is necessary to conduct a sweeping Cabinet reshuffle and bring about drastic policy changes.

The PPP, for its part, should not be complacent with the election win. It has only benefited from the Moon administration's incompetence and poor performance. It must install a new leadership as its interim leader Kim Chong-in was only supposed to serve until the by-elections. It should also strive to present a future vision and bring hope to the people.



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