In the preface of the 25th issue of Figures and Ideologies published in January, Kang Jun-man wrote that the biggest responsibility of the Roh administration is political reform, which is the call of the times. He is absolutely right, since the political climate in Korea is far from stable.
Intellectuals consistently put the blame on political parties, criticizing the undemocratic structure of one figure bossing the whole party, the top-down decision-making structure, and the reluctance of members to pay membership fees. But what Kang asks of intellectuals who yearn for political reform is to join political parties and personally right all the wrongs they've been pointing out.
Spitting and cursing at politics will not bring about any fundamental changes to it, but if all the citizens become party members, then politics will become "everyday life," driving out political scheming and opportunistic attitudes. So to make political reform a reality, Kang appeals to all the citizens to storm the political parties. (Kang is a member of the People's Party for Reform)
Recently, with The Women's News in the lead, there have been numerous discussions aimed at jump-starting women's political empowerment. There has also been an agreement to launch a Women's Alliance (tentative name) for the 2004 General Election. With the Democratic Alliance for Women's Political Empowerment in the lead, national women's organizations such as the Korean Women's Association United, Korea National Council of Women and Korea Women Voters' League have suggested joining together to form a preparatory committee that will be in charge of voters' campaigns to improve the election system, analysis of political candidates, establishment of a political alliance for women that encompasses more than 500 women groups across the nation, and discovering and supporting women candidates to run for the election. There was a suggestion to launch a 1000-Won-per-donor fund-raising drive to nurture and support women politicians.
But they are overlooking the fact that the political landscape is changing with astonishing speed. The biggest change would be that the "top-down" is changing into "bottom-up." This means that the "influence" that people can wield from outside the party will be increasingly limited. Or that influence may even be nil. Candidates for proportional representatives, not to mention regional representatives, will be nominated by a vote among bona fide party members, so no matter how long you wait outside the party preening away with professional knowledge and remarkable capacities, you will not get the chance to run in the elections if you are not a party member. All candidates have to compete to win the votes of party members in order to become the party-nominated candidate. So no matter how hard you worked to pool political funds to support your run for office, it will all be for nothing if you lose the in-party bid to be nominated a candidate.
Quantitative expansion brings about qualitative enhancement, but the accession to the party by a handful of politically conscious individuals will not give us that. Not 500 but 5,000 women groups can form an alliance and lobby for political empowerment from the outside, but it might actually be more effective for ordinary members of 50 or even just 5 major women groups to join a political party. No matter how loud the voices outside the party, it will not have any influence on the secret ballot by party members.
The era of bona fide party members well-established in the party has come. As Kang Jun-man said, the only way to create a new political culture is for countless citizens to storm the political parties. The same goes for the political empowerment of women. Let's not lose the opportunity to charge. Into the political parties!!