[Outlook]Beginner conservatives

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[Outlook]Beginner conservatives

I am curious why conservatives in Korea are so incompetent. Even though many of the conservative elite disappeared over the past 10 years of liberal administrations, they must have retained some of the competence that enabled them to lead Korea for half a century since the foundation of the country. But now they all look like premature infants in an incubator.

The government’s response to protesters in central Seoul was to pile up containers to block them ? hardly a refined response. It lowered its goals for reform and economic growth as oil prices surged. A South Korean was shot to death in the North and our country is being bullied on the international stage. Every part of state affairs needs life support.

On top of this, the government employs only people who share the same ideology and pursues populist policies. The government and the ruling party are not in harmony. The government is truly incompetent in every respect.

In the last administration, former student activists proved incompetent and amateurish as politicians. The people expected the new conservative administration to be better than the previous administration, but it isn’t. I really wondered why they are so immature and why they are wavering on issues, losing the consistency that they used to have.

The other day it finally became clear. While drinking with one of my friends he spat out, “It’s their first time.” That’s it. For 60 years since the foundation of the country, this is the first conservative administration in the truest sense.

Syngman Rhee’s Liberal Party had an ultimate goal: to establish a government. Park Chung Hee’s Democratic Republican Party took power and his dictatorship lasted until he was assassinated.

Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae-woo’s Democratic Justice Party also took power but their administrations were only by-products of despotic military rule. The Kim Young-sam administration was born of a coalition of three parties and his administration prioritized the value of a government of civilians rather than military officers.

However, this administration is different. As the left-wing administrations pursued somewhat sentimental ideological values such as fairer distribution of wealth, the people were terrified to see their slice of the pie shrinking and chose a conservative administration that shouted for economic growth. Thus, the incumbent administration which calls itself conservative should have begun by looking at conservative values and carrying them out step by step. It is a maiden journey that no one has taken before. The administration should have been careful with its first steps. It was the first time for the people as well and nobody knew how they would respond.

It was a mistake to believe that the administration was an experienced driver when really it is just a beginner. People thought that even though conservatives hadn’t been behind the wheel for 10 years, they would surely remember how to drive because they drove the car for 50 years before that. But their only experience was being offered a free ride in the passenger’s seat.

So they drove on dangerously, expecting to drive along a newly paved highway, but instead faced winding roads and complex junctions. People didn’t dare to look and closed their eyes.

The administration should put up a student driver sign on the car and drive very carefully. The history of Britain’s Conservative Party should be a good guide. The Conservative Party started as an association of noblemen and landlords and has a slogan to preserve old values, which is neither fresh nor charming. But the party has continued for nearly 200 years. They have a secret.

Robert Peel is the father of modern conservatism who widened its support base into the middle class through moderate reforms. Benjamin Disraeli left the legacy of One Nation Conservatism which integrated not only privileged classes but also middle and lower classes.

Former Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin advocated neoconservatism to emphasize the importance of social harmony, industrial partnership and consensus over confrontation. Their common value was to accept changes and to take a dominant stance on issues. That is how the Conservative Party could survive and also why extreme fascism and extreme leftist communism could not take root in Britain.

It is said that the president handed out the book “We Shall not Fail: The Inspiring Leadership of Winston Churchill” to the staff at the Blue House. It seems, however, an inopportune time to read the book. Instead, I’d like to recommend “How Did Conservative Politics Survive?” written by Kang Won-taek, a professor at Soongsil University. Churchill is a war hero, not a person who developed conservative politics. British people also abandoned him right after the war and chose the Labour Party. Now is the time to endeavor to survive, instead of winning.

*The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Lee Hoon-beom
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