[Viewpoint] Conservatives in name only

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[Viewpoint] Conservatives in name only

About three and half years ago, the Grand National Party was given a suit of armor too big and grand for it. Voters showered the party with more support than the conservative party deserved because they were simply annoyed with the ways of the previous liberal president, Roh Moo-hyun.

As a result of walking around with a suit too big for it, the GNP has been wobbly in its stride. It was either too ambitious in trying to grow into the suit, coming up with exorbitant and hasty policies, or self-indulgent and lazy in the luxury of undeserved power.

The ruling party has no warriors fighting for justice or farmers toiling to serve the people. Instead, it’s populated by the cowardly rich who don’t realize that all their wealth is illusory. The party wasted its years in power and has been devoid of sincere passion to invigorate the community or revitalize its supposedly conservative values.

The proud exit of Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon stands out because he fought valiantly for a conservative cause. He was dauntless and honorable in his fight to the end, a rare heroic sight among the conservative hordes. Even though he was defeated and forced to withdraw from the political stage, he left a valuable legacy of self-sacrifice.

Now we have a question to pose to the GNP. Are there any others to follow his example - to fight to their political demises to uphold conservative causes? Are there any who long to take after Socrates? The ancient Greek philosopher who questioned tyranny and fought for justice for young Athenians was sentenced to death for corrupting the minds of the young.

Socrates turned down his friend Crito’s plea to escape from prison because he could not break his social contract with the state and because doing wrong to the state would have been contrary to his own principles. With his death, Socrates turned himself into an icon of the human who stands by his principles and acts upon them in the cause of greater justice.

There are many in our society thirsting for a figure among conservatives to revere and follow. We have politicians who claim conservative values yet they are too busy fretting over their seats and ambitions to have the courage to jump into the fire for the greater cause.

They pose poor contrasts to the liberals who are eager to groom sensational iconic figures. The liberal forces erected a cult around Roh. They rushed to Busan in vans and buses to campaign for a labor activist in a lonely protest atop a crane in a shipyard where workers were laid off.

The liberals usually seek out a star from the labor scene while the conservatives pluck theirs from among their leaders. And the latter are doing a poor job because they are engrossed in protecting their own backs and counting votes.

If they lack the ability to groom a political idol, they can at least look for inspiration. In the office of the National Defense minister hangs a photo of the chief of staff of North Korea’s People’s Army. It hangs as an inspiration not to allow another deadly attack from North Korea, such as the Cheonan and Yeonpyeong incidents.

What photos do GNP members have in their offices? Would it be pictures of famous conservative Western leaders like former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher or U.S. President Ronald Reagan or former Korean Presidents Park Chung Hee or Syngman Rhee? Or would they prefer the popular Argentine President Juan Peron?

If they have no favorite, I suggest they hang a picture of Oh. He at least sacrificed his political life to defend a conservative principle.

Despite its ruling party status, the GNP has been playing insipid, uninspiring, inconsistent and often impromptu tunes on the political stage. It has failed to console the helpless or attract new talent. It has been content merely sustaining its feeding trough.

The banal fails to inspire and impress. If the party had steadfastly committed itself to serve the people and justice, it would have felt some resonance from the public. It is a pity that even with its giant suit of armor, the GNP was as wobbly as a reed swaying in the slightest breeze.

The GNP is headed for a disastrous downfall. If party members do not have the resolution to gather courage and wisdom to fight for their cause, they might as well give up now. They must decide if they will fight to the end or die in disgrace counting their votes.

*The writer is a professor of civil ethics education at Seoul National University.

By Park Hyo-jong
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