The DP Is Making a Fool of Itself Over the Cheonan Sinking

      May 18, 2010 13:07

      The leaders of South Korea's four opposition parties -- the Democratic, Democratic Labor, Creative Korea and People's Participation parties -- as well as a handful of civic groups issued a joint statement on Monday saying they cannot trust the results of the investigation into the sinking of the Navy corvette Cheonan as long as authorities refuse to reveal information about the incident from the Korean Navy Tactical Data System as well as communications and navigational records of the vessel.

      They demanded the government unveil those records and called on President Lee Myung-bak to apologize publicly and for the defense minister and other high-ranking military officers to resign.

      But the military has already provided the data to a special investigative committee of the DP, and party officials apparently decided there were no problems with the information. It is customary to keep KNTDS and communications records confidential since they contain classified information regarding surveillance tactics and communication codes.

      Rhyu Si-min of the People's Participation Party, who is the opposition candidate for governor of Gyeonggi Province, went even further. "The government is unable to come up with realistic evidence to determine that a torpedo caused the Cheonan to split in half," he said. The DP's Seoul mayoral candidate Han Myeong-sook and political campaign chief Lee Hae-chan also claimed the cause of the sinking has yet to be determined. The comments appear to show that the opposition is unwilling to accept the results of the probe.

      It is easy to understand that the opposition parties may fear that the results of the investigation will work against them at the polls. But in a few days, a multinational team of investigators including experts from other countries will announce the results. When they see them, the opposition parties have the legal right to call for a National Assembly hearing or other means to review them.

      With 84 seats in the National Assembly, the DP is the largest opposition party, having been the ruling party for the previous 10 years. It may be on the same side as the smaller opposition parties ahead of the June 2 local elections, but it should play a more responsible role in the opposition camp.

      In order for the DP to regain power, it needs to win not only the support of its traditional backers but also of centrist voters. That means it should avoid choices that go against common sense and prevailing public sentiment even as it tries to gain the upper hand in the upcoming elections. Surveys show 60 to 70 percent of South Koreans believe North Korea was behind the sinking of the Cheonan and the evidence gathered so far by an international team of investigators supports this. The DP should exercise more tactical and strategic wisdom in its handling of the situation.

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