A crisis for the New RightKim Jin-hong, the chairman of the New Right Union, said in an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo on Christmas Eve that he started his movement in June, 2005, because he felt Lee Myung-bak would be a great president.
“From the very beginning of the New Right movement, I had in mind a picture of a government of reform-minded conservatives, with Lee Myung-bak as the president,” the 66-year-old pastor said. Born in 1941, Pastor Kim and the president-elect are the same age. They have been close friends for the last 20 years.
Pastor Kim’s interview reminded me of a moment last year.
On Nov. 19, 16 progressive elders, including Seoul National University professor emeritus Paik Nak-chung, pastor Park Hyeong-gyu, Catholic priest Ham Se-ung, writer Hwang Sok-yong and poet Ko Un, issued a statement urging the ruling circle to unite behind a single presidential candidate.
A collaboration of literary and religious figures issued the statement, but to me, it seemed very unliterary and unreligious.
“The democratic reformist groups have a historical duty and responsibility to create the biggest united force possible through thorough and efficient political engineering now that the presidential election is only a month away,” they said.
They also argued the political powers who did not participate in that effort ― which served to halt the grand coalition of democratic groups ― were agents of false democracy and peace.
The statement was unrefined and gloomy. After all, 74 percent of the voters supported politicians who favored “false democracy and peace.” Still, the elders of the liberal group stayed quiet.
It is nothing new for elders to arbitrarily and obstinately link the success or failure of a certain politician to themselves, as well as the of the “democratic faction,” “spirit of the time,” and “will of the people.”
The statements made by Professor Paik Nak-chung and the fellow leftists contained serious misjudgments.
From Pastor Kim Jin-hong’s comment that Lee Myung-bak had “great material to be president,” I could see the slight possibility that Pastor Kim would commit the same blunder as Professor Paik.
The organization that ignited the New Right movement was the Liberty Union, which was formed in November 2004.
Shin Ji-ho, the president of the Liberty Union, said he established the group as a reaction to a lecture he heard by President Roh Moo-hyun at Yonsei University in May 2004.
The president said, “No matter what kind of conservative ― even reasonable or mild ― let’s never change and become a conservative.”
In November 2005, Pastor Kim Jin-hong and Professor Je Seong-ho created the popular civic group, the New Right Union.
Let’s call the theory-oriented Liberty Union and the New Right Foundation “the theoretical New Right.” The New Right Union, which appeals to the general public, should be called “the popular New Right.”
The Liberty Union prospectus includes the catchprase of President-elect Lee Myung-bak, which is, “the advancement of the country.”
The Lee Myung-bak administration and the New Right are inseparable. Immediately after the Grand National Party’s primary to choose its presidential candidate, Lee Jae-oh, a former member of the party’s Supreme Council, categorized the roles of the New Right faction into theory, which Liberty Union represents, and practice, which the the New Right Union represents.
Ironically, I think a serious crisis for the New Right movement has begun now that the Grand National Party has won the presidential election. If the New Right wants to learn a lesson from the past, they need to study the case of the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy. One-third of the 426 former and incumbent executives of the group served in high-ranking positions in the Blue House and the government.
The Solidarity alums were so successful they were promoted to 22 public positions during the Kim Young-sam administration, 113 positions during the Kim Dae-jung administration and 158 positions during the Roh Moo-hyun administration.
When making policy plans, nearly every agency made a reference to the solidarity policy report first. Will the New Right follow in the footsteps of the People’s Solidarity?
Some New Right figures have already joined the new administration, with Pastor Kim appointed as an adviser to the inauguration committee.
Yet, that is only the beginning. Who will live up to the ordinance and the original intention of the New Right? The year 2008 marks the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Korea.
We need people to objectively publicize the accomplishments of the republic more than ever. If they compete to be a part of the power and are satisfied with just being Lee supporters, the future of the New Right is truly dismal.
*The writer is the senior culture and sports editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Noh Jae-hyun