A reinvention waiting to happenSaturday marks the fourth year since the launch of the Park Geun-hye administration. Normally it would be a time for some fanfare as an administration tallies up its achievements so far and dedicates itself to a few more attempts at meeting campaign promises before it ends.
In its fourth year, however, President Park is in limbo after she was impeached by the National Assembly in December. In the ruling party, factional battles are in full swing. As a result, Korea is adrift as it suffers the double whammy of security threats and economic crises.
Responsibility for the chaos falls squarely on Park’s shoulders. No self-respecting Korean can approve the shameful abuse of power by the president, her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil and her clan. The president has to have connived in their meddling in state affairs. Her voters’ trust has been shattered to the point of no return, as seen in the figure of how many people were in favor of her impeachment: 80 percent. In such circumstances, no president could perform, no matter what ruling the Constitutional Court hands down.
It all boils down to the insatiable greed and arrogance of lawmakers loyal to Park. The approval rating for the newly named Liberty Korea Party — the old wine of the Saenuri Party poured into a not very fresh bottle — barely hovers above 10 percent while the spin-off Bareun Party enjoys a single-digit rating. They have a critical lack of promising candidates for the upcoming presidential election. In the meantime, the opposition Democratic Party is gleeful that its two candidates are leading the pack.
Even after changing its name, the LKP shows no change. Conservative voters wonder what a difference it can make. No ruling party lawmakers took the blame for the president’s demise, yet are bent on finding ways to survive on their own. The Bareun Party is little different. Rather than becoming a new force representing the conservative camp, it is also engrossed in a meaningless war over how to fix its nomination rules.
Democracy rests on the principle of checks and balances as well as a coexistence of conservative and liberal values. The decline of conservatism is a disaster for our society. The crisis of the conservatives did not result from their defeat in competition with the liberals or from divisions within the group. Rather, it stems from a perverse loyalty to Park’s dominance.
If conservatives want to rebound, they must end their factionalism and abandon their blind allegiance to their thoroughly disgraced boss. They must revive the values of conservatism: responsibility and dedication.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 24, Page 30