To reinvent conservatismAfter 35 lawmakers outside the Saenuri Party faction loyal to President Park Geun-hye announced Wednesday they would leave the ruling Saenuri Party, that group has emerged as a major force in a presidential election that could be held as early as the first half of 2017. The split of the conservative party heralds a seismic shift in Korea’s political terrain 26 years after the regrouping of conservative forces in 1990.
The non-Park loyalists are expected to invite outgoing UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and other political heavyweights to join their new conservative party to beat the former chairman of the opposition Minjoo Party Moon Jae-in — the current frontrunner in the polls — in the next presidential election.
Eight months of internal friction in the ruling party after its crushing defeat in the April 13 general election eventually led to the non-loyalists’ departure. In fact, the pro-Park faction blatantly defied public sentiment by demonstrating a blind allegiance to the president and rejected their counterparts’ persistent call for their retreat from the party leadership. The non-loyalists have finally reached the conclusion that it’s better for them to leave the party than continuing a meaningless war of attrition with the pro-Park group, which would surely have led to a collapse of conservatism in Korea.
The defectors must renew the values of conservatism which have been so discredited by the Park loyalists and present a fresh blueprint for the upcoming post-Park era. They must root out the corruption, nepotism and cronyism exposed by the scandal that led to the impeachment of Park to reinvent our conservative politics. At the same time, they should root out any tendency to seek votes by attacking the opposition for their pro-North Korea stance and also incorporate such liberal values as economic democratization. Unless they establish a totally new vision for a brighter future of the country, they have no place to go.
Those defectors, too, cannot shirk their responsibility for the unprecedented abuse of power under the Park administration. If they believe they can just walk away from responsibility, that’s a miscalculation. Unless they can get beyond their boss-centered politics based on regionalism, the new party will end up in the dustbin of history.
The non-loyalists have so far failed to demonstrate firm attitudes whenever decision time came. They stopped short of presenting a grand vision for the future and just criticized the pro-Park group. Now they must change. They must first give up their vested interests and present genuinely conservative values if they really want to survive.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 22, Page 30