Why can‘t we move forward?
Towering wall of regionalism confirmed again
As expected, the towering wall of regionalism has been confirmed once again in the April 11 National Assembly elections. Few candidates from the ruling and main opposition parties were elected in each other’s home turf.
Candidates from the ruling Saenuri Party failed to secure a single seat in the Honam region where 30 seats were up for grabs. The main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) managed to obtain three seats in the Yeongnam region ― two in Busan and one in South Gyeongsang Province ― where candidates vied in 67 electoral districts.
It’s sorrowful to see regionalism featured again and we feel even more worried about the deepening antagonism it engenders.
Nonetheless, we see a ray of hope in some districts. Lee Jung-hyun, a close confidant of ruling Saenuri Party leader Park Geun-hye, ran in a district in the southwestern city of Gwangju, the DUP’s stronghold, and suffered a meaningful defeat. In the run-up to the elections, Lee was in a neck-and-neck battle against his counterpart from the Unified Progressive Party, the DUP’s alliance partner. Although he failed, his efforts to tear down regionalism deserve praise.
Former Agriculture Minister Chung Un-chun ran in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province, on a Saenuri Party ticket and led his opponent from the main opposition party in pre-election opinion polls before eventually losing in the election proper. Kim Boo-kyum, the two-term DUP lawmaker elected in Gyeonggi Province, moved to Daegu, the home turf of the ruling party, and had a close battle but lost eventually. They lost in the elections but their determination to change the current political landscape should be applauded.
Rep. Cho Kyung-tae from the DUP became a three-term lawmaker in Busan, the stronghold of the Saenuri Party. He is the only incumbent DUP lawmaker who was elected in the Wednesday polls. Min Hong-cheol, a lawyer-turned-politician, is one of the three DUP survivors in the southeastern Yeongnam region. He will be the only DUP lawmaker in South Gyeongsang Province.
The worsening regional antagonism stems largely from political parties’ excessive confrontation, blasting each other indiscriminately without the slightest respect for their opponents. Therefore, the first step toward solving the chronic problem should be taken in the political community. It’s encouraging that Lee Sang-il, the spokesman for the Saenuri Party’s election committee, emphasized the need to make efforts to ease regional rivalry in the new National Assembly.
In the past, every time elections were over, we often heard that measures were urgently needed to patch the regional rift for the sake of the country’s long-term development. To this end, political parties should be frank and move forward to accept even unfavorable changes in the election system. This means that it’s time to consider changing the current small constituency system in such a direction to elect two or more people in each district.