[Viewpoint] GNP must check its values

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[Viewpoint] GNP must check its values

It is both confounding and depressing to gaze upon the state of the ruling Grand National Party. It should have gotten the message after its crushing defeat in the most recent by-elections that change is required. Yet the party stumbles along with no sense of direction. Its stand on college tuitions is a perfect example. Lowering tuition fees can ease the financial burden on parents.

But the bigger problem lies beyond college tuitions. Even after a young person pays the expensive tuition and finishes college with a university degree, he or she cannot find a decent job. Even the ones fortunate to land a secure job at a large company will have to fret over their retirements after just 20 years at work.

With no end to money needed to support children, people live in constant anxiety about reaching an advanced age without work, savings or pensions. The key to alleviating the problem is generating more jobs and coming up with educational and training solutions for those jobs. That is a much more challenging and complicated task than simply shaving tuition fees. Such a fundamental approach also demands time and perseverance.

To cut or increase taxes is also a complicated matter. This can no longer be a simple divide between conservatives who are for tax cuts and liberals who want them raised. In Britain, the Conservative Party under Prime Minister David Cameron has raised taxes and slashed spending. It restructured welfare and charter school programs as well as the National Health Service. Its savage cuts, however, helped lessen the fiscal debt and improved the national balance sheet. But here in Korea, the GNP is merely mimicking the liberals touting tax increases and more welfare spending.

When North Korean leader Kim Jong-il visited China, some GNP members called for a new initiative to renew inter-Korean dialogue before North Korea ends up relying too heavily on China. But they fell short of presenting a truly valid reason for pushing for inter-Korean talks, which have stalled since North Korea’s attacks on the Cheonan and Yeonpyeong Island.

The party jumps on any political breeze without any sense of identity, goal or vision. It is turning into a weak, gullible and confused group. It has misinterpreted the call for change by ordering a complete makeover from foundation to rooftop.

Before embarking on the task of renovation, the party should ruminate on what to maintain. To do so, it must look in the rearview mirror. It must recall why the masses voted for a conservative candidate from the GNP in the last presidential election: the GNP offered an alternative to a public that had turned restless and anxious about the country’s values and identity after two liberal governments.

The ruling party read the by-election defeat as a signal to turn left. But its worth to the Republic of Korea is beyond left or right.

The opposition party prompts distrust not because of its liberal policies, but because it discredits the values this nation stands for. Its questioning of the Cheonan sinking and its opposition to the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement are just a few examples.

What are this nation’s values? They are in support of a cultural, spiritual and historical trajectory that has guided and made this country what it is today. They are the roots that make us unique in the global community. We are proud of our roots. We sweated and toiled and educated our children so they could enjoy the fruits of our labor. We saved and enriched the country. Even if we are not rich, we are proud for not having lived in vain.

We were content with standing up on our own two feet instead of relying on others. We resisted pessimism and preferred to be positive about our future. We longed for a fair and clean government that defends individual freedoms and rights. We hoped to preach and spread our values across the border and unite this land. Our real ally will be one that shares our common values and culture.

What are the road blocks to upholding these values? Is it the ideology called conservatism? Ironically, it is the people who have reaped the greatest rewards and have betrayed us by deviating from the proper path. They are the conglomerates and bureaucrats, aggravating the wealth gap and the persistent problem of corruption.

Conglomerates could not have prospered without the sacrifices of the people and bureaucrats cannot exist without the public paying their salaries. All of our society’s members must defend its values. The better-off should lead fair lives if they do not want to end up abandoned and lost.

Once a mast is tilted, it is hard to straighten it. The attitude of the public can easily sway to one side. The GNP must radically surrender some of its values in order to defend more important ones.

President Lee Myung-bak and former GNP Chairwoman Park Geun-hye must join hands to present the right direction and save the party as well as the country. There is still some time left to undo the wrongs.

*The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Moon Chang-keuk
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