Korean government party: democratic or Army puppet?
South Korea's new government party, the Democratic Justice Party, is "a kind of coalition, an undeclared civil-military partnership," according to a prominent party official, Nam Jae Hee.
President Chun Doo Hwan, now on his first state visit to the United States, is the party's president and its candidate in the indirect presidential election to be held Feb. 11. The new party's secretary-general and deputy secretary-general are both recently retired Army officers.
But in the National Assembly election expected toward the end of March, the Democratic Justice Party will choose only about 10 percent of its total candidates from former military officers, Mr. Nam said.
The other candidates represent a wide spectrum of Korean society, Mr. Nam said, including politicians from the former opposition party, the New Democrats, as well as from the former government party, the Democratic Republicans. Labor leaders, cultural figures, veterans of the independence struggle, and leaders from youth, religious, and women's organizations are also included, according to Mr. Nam.
Most party workers are from the former Democratic Republican Party, said Mr. Nam. But only 15 percent of the candidates for the National Assembly will come from this party. Mr. Nam himself, who is chairman of the new party's policy committee, is the highest-ranking former Democratic Republican. The party chairman, Lee Vi Hyung, was once an opposition party leader.
Nongovernmental Korean observers have expressed skepticism about both the Democratic Justice Party and its principal rival, the Democratic Korea Party. There is a strong feeling that these and other parties that have mushroomed since political activities were resumed early this year supply only a facade of popular participation, with the actual strings being pulled by persons of unquestioned loyalty to President Chun.
Mr. Nam, however, said that when he spoke of an "undeclared civil-military partnership," this was because such a partnership is demanded by the realities of the South Korean situation.
On one hand, South Korea faces an active, immediate threat to its security from communists North Korea. It is also a country with a traditional Confucian hierarchical sense of values. And it is a developing country. The role of the military has to be different in such a country from that in Western democracies, said Mr. NaM. To try to conduct American- style two-party confrontational politics is to ignore the realities of the Korean situation.
On the other hand, the military cannot represent the whole of the nation. The civil bureaucracy, businessmen and industrialists, students, religious leaders, and trade unions all represent legitimate interests that must be reconciled if the country is not to explode in frustration and violent confrontation.
Thus, Mr. Nam said he hopes the Democratic Justice Party will represent within its own ranks all the major forces of the country. In fact, he said, there is a clear intent on the part of the leadership to create such a coalition. Whether the intent succeeds or fails will have to await the outcome of the National Assembly election.
Mr. Nam, a former newspaperman and Nieman fellow, was elected to the National Assembly from a suburban Seoul constituency in 1979. Currently a member of the appointive legislative assembly, he will run for the assembly from his present constitue ncy in the March election.