How to be a conservativeConservatism is the political philosophy of preserving and protecting tradition. So there has to be values that conservatives want to protect, such as the free market economy or democratic republic. But in Korea, there are no such conservative values. Some people claim that they are conservatives, but they lack substance. How can they preserve and protect illusion? In the end, the self-proclaimed conservatives in Korea worked to protect something else: vested rights and interests. So conservatives and corruption have become synonymous. And conservatism is no longer attractive rhetoric.
So the so-called conservative parties never used “Conservative” in their title. They preferred terms that better suit the liberals, such as “democratic,” “freedom” and “justice.” Or they came up with value-neutral names such as Grand National Party or Saenuri Party. Wearing such masks, the conservatives still pursued the same vested rights and interests.
In fact, conservatives in developed nations also have problems. English philosopher Roger Scruton published “How to Be a Conservative,” which was translated in Korean as “In Search of a Reasonable Conservative.” According to Scruton, real conservative values are the conviction to preserve the material and spiritual legacy inherited from the ancestors and hand over to the next generation, the solidarity to protect the weak and care for others and the strong will to not break their own principles.
So, Korean conservatives are far from the standards of the real conservative. What the conservative party tried to protect was not the value but the people. Under the name of a single person, there was no care or principle. The standard of good and evil was whether she likes it or not. She only kept people who said sweet words and acted obediently around her. She had the conviction to protect the legacy of a democratic republic overshadowed by anti-communism and market economy favoring conglomerates with the justification of growth.
Surprisingly, there are still the remains of development-driven dictatorship. She adheres to outdated values and brought ruin to the conservatives. The sophists who cannot distinguish between blind loyalty and patriotism became conservative.
Fortunately, some conservatives are reasonable and decided to leave the pseudo-conservative party to establish a real conservative party. In Korean political history, defection, division and the creation of a new party is nothing new. But a sliver of hope is that they started to discuss the conservative values. Instead of taking a side with a certain figure, they want to get under the tent of certain values. This is the first event in history of Korea’s conservatism.
Chaos and discord cannot be avoided in the first try. Some people are skeptical of the direction proposed by Yoo Seong-min, who has the helm of the new party. So the number of lawmakers leaving the ruling party has decreased, but the hope remains. They can be reborn as a policy-oriented party only when they go through constructive discussion. All I can do is to give advice, and my advice is that they shouldn’t worry too much. I believe that it is the only way for the conservatives to survive.
Conservatives are the ones who preserve, but when they fail to accommodate changes of the time, they are protecting outdated values. If they go against the changes of the time, they become the rebels. The Conservative Party, also known as the Tories, of the United Kingdom has historically represented the interests of aristocrats and landlords. The Tories could remain as the oldest party in the world because they did not fight change.
50 years after the modern party was founded, Stanley Baldwin brought in New Conservatism, aggressively promoting social harmony based on industrial partnership and social and economic policies based on agreement rather than confrontation. The fascism and communism that swept Europe in the 1930s did not thrive in the United Kingdom. In an era of extreme ideologies, the Conservative Party remained moderate to prevent social unrest and preserved the conservative values of order and stability.
The declaration of the succession shows that those who left the Saenuri Party did not deviate a step further left than the Conservatives under Benjamin Disraeli and Baldwin. There is nothing to worry about. They are finally seeking real conservative values.
Roger Scruton wrote that the solidarity to protect the weak and care for others is the conservative value to be handed down to the future generation.
Now, the real concern is keeping these newly awakened conservatives away from the traps of established rights and interests in their search for true conservatism. It is a trap that will be certain to lure them as they compete to bring in promising candidates and gather forces. One way to avoid the trap is never forgetting the question of what to preserve and protect.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 28, Page 32
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.