South Korea’s liberal parties all led by women
The Democratic Party leader promises a stronger inter-party alliance
By Choi Ha-young
The inauguration of Representative Cho Bae-sook as the chairwoman of the newly created Party for Democracy and Peace (PDP) Wednesday opened a new era for female politicians in Korea.
Now the three prominent liberal parties are all led by women — which is unprecedented in male-dominated Korean politics.
The troika — Cho, ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) Chairwoman Choo Mi-ae and Justice Party Chairwoman Lee Jeong-mi — will counter conservative parties all led by men.
In consecutive meetings Wednesday, Cho promised a stronger alliance of the liberal parties. “Accidentally, female politicians are leading three liberal parties,” Cho said during her visit to Choo’s office. “Let’s have lunch together soon. I will treat you.”
The ruling party leader warmly welcomed Cho. “I believe nothing is impossible if we, female leaders, gather power,” Choo said.
Choo asked for help from the PDP in the DPK’s bid to oust scandal-hit lawmaker Kweon Seong-dong of the conservative Liberty Korea Party (LKP), who chairs the Assembly’s Legislation and Judiciary Committee.
The DPK is struggling to deprive Kweon of the post, who has interrupted reformist bills, following a prosecutor’s revelation that the lawmaker exerted pressure on the prosecution’s investigation into his corruption allegation.
“I want Cho to join hands in removing the corrupt lawmaker from the important post,” Choo said. “The case of Rep. Kweon has undermined citizens’ trust in the National Assembly.” After the talks with Choo, Cho also urged Kweon’s resignation.
Later in the meeting with the Justice Party leader, Cho offered the two parties’ cooperation in reforming the constituency system before the local elections in June. “So far, the single-member electorate system has failed to reflect public opinion due to numerous wasted votes,” Cho said.
Echoing Cho’s point, Lee offered to visit the DPK leader together to persuade the largest party to back the reform initiative. “We really should have lunch together, along with Choo, as soon as possible,” Lee said. “Let’s get her clear answer on the issue.”
The single-member electorate system has hampered the growth of minor parties. If voters can pick only one candidate, those running for small parties are less likely to gain votes. The two largest parties _ the DPK and the LKP _ have backed the idea to elect two candidates in one electorate district, while the smaller parties have called for four candidates.
Meanwhile, Cho and People’s Party Chairman Ahn Cheol-soo created an awkward moment in their meeting on the same day. The two have exchanged barbs over the People’s Party’s planned merger with the conservative Bareun Party. In the end, 15 lawmakers broke away from the People’s Party and then launched the PDP, touting more progressive slogans.