EDITORIAL NOTES

People's party in crisis: The Korea Herald

Ahn Cheol Son, People's Party co-chairman, attends a rally in Seoul, South Korea, on April 11, 2016.
Ahn Cheol Son, People's Party co-chairman, attends a rally in Seoul, South Korea, on April 11, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

In its editorial on July 1, the paper says uncertainty surrounds the future of presidential hopeful Ahn Cheol Son and the nation's main opposition party, after the spate of scandals. 

Only four months after it came into being, the People’s Party is in crisis. 

How the party copes with the crisis will affect the future of not only the party itself but also national politics  especially the next presidential election. 

The crisis, touched off by allegations of financial wrongdoing during the April 13 election campaign, culminated with the resignation of Ahn Cheol Soo, the party’s paramount leader, and his joint leader Chung Jung Bae on Tuesday. 

Their resignation came a day after the party’s deputy secretary-general was taken into custody on suspicion of involvement in the scandal. 

The case surrounds allegations that party officials received 238 million won (S$277,508) in rebates from two firms they hired for the election campaign and tampered with financial statements filed to receive government subsidies. 

The National Election Commission - which announced the news - and the prosecution suspect that party officials like Reps Kim Su Min, who was the chief campaign publicity officer, and Park Sun Sook  then the secretary-general – conspired in or were aware of the illegal acts. 

As the scandal eroded public confidence in the party, Ahn, who created the party in February under the mantra of new, clean politics, was under pressure to take due action on the scandal.  

And Ahn took the boldest action, taking many by surprise. 

Banishing the three implicated in the case from the party or – if that fails to quell public discontent  making Kim and Park give up their parliamentary seats had largely been thought of as the strongest action the party could take. 

Ahn, a potential presidential candidate, said that he has never avoided responsibility. 

Obviously, he opted to safeguard his image as a man of principle at the risk of weakening the political clout of the four-month-old party. 

Ahn made a big bet, and it will be interesting to see whether the gamble pays off for him and the People’s Party. 

The Korea Herald is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 21 newspapers.