A long way to goA reform committee working within the main opposition Liberty Korea Party recommended Wednesday that its veteran lawmakers Suh Chung-won and Choi Kyung-hwan leave the party. Both representatives were core members of the faction loyal to President Park Geun-hye before and after her impeachment and removal for an unprecedented corruption scandal.
But the party leadership took a step back by pardoning the rest of the pro-Park group, who contributed to the conservative party’s fall from grace, saying it will take additional steps to punish them if they don’t cooperate with the party’s reform campaign. Despite the realistic need for the LKP to merge with the minor opposition Bareun Party — which was created by defectors from the conservative party in January who were not loyal to Park — it is not appropriate for the LKP to penalize the two ringleaders of the pro-Park faction alone. Its decision is not only half-baked, but will surely disappoint a public that expects a genuine rebirth of the party.
First of all, it is not clear if the LKP, with its 107 seats in the legislature, could provide the leadership needed to unite the conservative forces in Korea with such a meager level of reform spirit. The Bareun Party, with 20 seats in the legislature, has persistently called for the expulsion of eight pro-Park lawmakers, including not only Suh and Choi but other core members like Yoon Sang-hyun and Hong Moon-jong, as a precondition for merging with the LKP. But the pro-Park faction refused to accept that demand.
Six months have passed since ruling Saenuri Party changed its name to Liberty Korea Party to get beyond the historic scandal that tarnished its name beyond repair. The party is still divided between the pro-Park group and others. If such a sleazy fight continues, it cannot represent the conservative movement in this country.
The LKP must regain its reputation as the mainstream of Korean conservatism. If it is not able to root out the entire pro-Park faction, it can never restore its pride as the champion of conservative values. The party must rid itself of vested interests through actions, not words.
The party must hold the pro-Park faction accountable for the disastrous schism in the conservative camp. If our society is to fly harmoniously with two wings, the party must quickly restore the values of healthy conservatism.
JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 14, Page 34