The vision thingConservative voters are in panic as they cannot spot any qualified candidates on the horizon, even when the next presidential election is likely to be held in a few months after President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment last month over an abuse of power scandal. Despite the emergence of a group of new, self-proclaimed conservative candidates, they fall way short of meeting voters’ strict standards because of their critical lack of vision and charisma capable of healing the deep frustrations of conservatives and moving the nation forward.
A case in point is the Bareun Party, which was established last week after the defection of former Saenuri Party lawmakers. Even after the Saenuri’s former floor leader Yoo Seong-min and Gyeonggi Gov. Nam Kyung-pil — both in their 50s and self-styled new conservatives — declared bids for the presidency, supporters discern a critical lack of political virtues. They were not impressed by promises to change our military recruitment system from conscription to a volunteer service.
Former UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon can hardly avoid criticism that he has fallen short of presenting a blueprint for his self-proclaimed “New Politics.” Ban defines himself as a “liberal conservative,” which would be a sleight of hand in any country. That farcical move led to an unexpected upswing in the public’s support for acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn as well as the ruling Saenuri Party’s campaign to invite him to be a candidate in the election.
The Bareun Party now seems to be bent on snagging Ban to take advantage of his reputation as former UN chief. But Ban wants to form a big coalition to compete with Moon Jae-in — former leader of the opposition Democratic Party and current frontrunner in polls — without trying to dispense with the bad legacies of conservatives. Such a shortsighted move will only breed internal conflict and division.
The trajectory of our past presidential elections show that voters always chose candidates with strong convictions, not those seeking immediate gains. Conservative voters in Korea are looking for candidates who can restore the genuine strength of conservatism instead of endeavoring to pitch a bigger tent for election victory. They must reestablish the lost value of justice to put our nation back on track. They must avoid trying to exploit sensitive security issue and regionalism.
A pursuit of healthy conservatism can lead to a defeat in elections. But a defeat with principle is even better than a victory without principle.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 1, Page 26