A faction digs in

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A faction digs in

Former Chairman of the ruling Saenuri Party Kim Moo-sung said Tuesday he’s considering establishing a new conservative party in Korea. On the same day, a conservative union for innovation and integration was launched. With those new developments, the ruling party took a step closer toward splitting down the middle after last Friday’s impeachment of President Park Geun-hye over the Choi Soon-sil scandal.

Fifth-term lawmaker Kim underscored that responsible conservatism cannot entrust the future of Korean conservatism to outdated conservative forces with blind loyalty to the president.

But such sentiments do not come from the pro-Park faction, which has been enjoying lots of privileges from President Park. The first responsibility for the unprecedented abuse of power scandal must be borne by the president herself, of course. But the pro-Park group, too, should be held accountable for ignoring their boss’ weird behavior. The Saenuri Party’s approval rating has plunged to half the level of the opposition Minjoo Party’s since the bombshell revelations last month. Nevertheless, current leader Lee Jung-hyun, or other leaders for that matter, are not willing to take responsibility for their party’s dramatic decline, Instead, they are still bent on protecting their own interests.

It’s not exactly proper for lawmakers to leave a political party in whose name they got elected. But the current situation in which a non-mainstream faction threatens to dismantle the party is not normal; it is totally different from factional fights to take control of the party. In that sense, the pro-Park group’s demand that its counterparts leave the party immediately is hard to sanction.

Given the lowest-ever approval ratings for Park and her party, the lawmakers loyal to Park must repent and correct their wrongdoings. But instead, they blame colleagues with no affiliation to the president. Chairman Lee even denounced a bipartisan consultative body among the government and ruling and opposition parties as an “idea that should be thrown into the trash bin” rather than cooperating with the opposition to smoothly run the government. That kind of attitude will surely lead to the demise of Korean conservatism.

The Saenuri is merely a party for Park. Whether representatives leave or stay in the party, conservative politicians must mull a better future.

Allegiance to the president and a pursuit of factional gains over the interest of the party leads nowhere. The pro-Park group must separate itself from the president if it expects to survive.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 14, Page 34
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