GNP tries more ways to revamp outdated image

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GNP tries more ways to revamp outdated image

In a move to revamp its image as an old-fashioned political relic, the Grand National Party is considering dropping the word “conservatism” from its party platform and policies.

But the party’s senior members are fiercely resisting the change, leaving the controversy up in the air and possibly pointing out the exact problem some members of the party are trying to resolve, with the party’s older members getting in the way of reform.

While postponing the decision to reinvent its identity, the GNP decided to soften its hard-line North Korea policy and introduce the values of economic justice and fair competition to redefine its image, aiming to improve its plummeting popularity ahead of the April legislative elections.

The emergency leadership of the GNP held a discussion yesterday to decide how to reshape the direction of the party’s platform and policies. At the meeting, controversy quickly flared over the proposal to delete the word “conservatism” from the party’s platform.

Kim Chong-in, a member of the party’s emergency council, made the plan public on Wednesday in media interviews. Kim argued that it was wrong for the GNP to identify itself as conservative.

“A political party that proclaims itself as conservative cannot survive in the rapidly changing world,” he said.

The GNP’s platform, revised in 2006, stipulated that “the new GNP follows the historical orthodoxy of progressive conservatism and rational reform, two of the forces behind the rapid growth of the Republic of Korea for the past six decades, while eradicating degenerative tendencies, and declares its rebirth as a future-oriented people’s party that guides the nation through this challenging transitional period.”

Representative Kwon Young-jin, who participated in the discussion, said yesterday that the party has decided to revise the platform and policies, but that discussions would continue on whether to keep the word “conservatism” or not.

“We will continue discussing the issue,” said Kwon. “At today’s meeting, both opinions were expressed.”

Supporters of Kim’s proposal said the party must not be obsessed with its conservative label when representing the nation.

Those protesting against the proposal, however, said the discussion could prompt an unnecessary ideological debate and asked the leadership to refrain from broaching the sensitive issue at this time.

In interviews with MBC and CBS radio, Representative Won Hee-ryong, a reformist, said yesterday he agrees with Kim’s idea of dropping the term “conservatism,” calling the proposal “a bravely bold idea.” Won said “the contents of conservatism change as time goes by, and the party won’t be able to win the public’s support by fixating on the term conservatism.”

Senior GNP members, however, were furious about the move. Kim Yong-kap, a 76-year-old senior adviser to the GNP, told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday he condemned the plan.

“It’s an act of complete self-denial,” he said. “It’s like taking out the first article of the Constitution, which stipulates that the Republic of Korea is a democratic republic.”

Nicknamed the “original conservative,” Kim is a former three-term GNP lawmaker who served the Chun Doo Hwan Blue House and Roh Tae-woo cabinet. Kim led a protest against the attempt to abolish the National Security Law during the liberal Roh Moo-hyun administration. He also had a close relationship with Kim Chong-in, as they have worked together for 25 years in past governments.

“The GNP’s basic ideology is conservatism, and removing it is an act of denying the main forces of the country that worked for six decades to develop this nation,” he said. “It is also an act of denying the Park Chung Hee era.”

He also issued a warning to Park, the interim leader of the party. “I was her adviser during the 2007 presidential primary and I am her loyalist,” Kim said. “But that doesn’t mean that I will support everything she does. When she said the party’s reform will be felt to the bone, it should not mean that the party’s backbone will be changed.”

While the controversy continued over dropping its conservative identity, the GNP managed to agree on other changes to be made to the platform, the first revision since 2006.

The revision will stress the importance of national security while proposing a flexible North Korea policy to prepare for the new era of unification, Kwon said.

“While upholding the values promoted by the GNP such as freedom, human rights and the rule of law, we agreed to add new values to take into account the new zeitgeist and public demands, such as political participation, communication and safety and the happiness of families,” Kwon said.


By Ser Myo-ja, Jung Hyo-sik [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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