The future of conservatismThe real obstacle in overcoming hardship isn’t hunger but hopelessness. Though a crisis may be painful, hope can grant one power. But without it, one loses direction.
The opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) appeared to have lost its direction after the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye. Its approval rate is not even a half that of the ruling Democratic Party. In some surveys, it has around one-third that of the Democrats. It cannot even benefit from mistakes made by the Moon Jae-in administration.
Things must be hard for the LKP because the investigation into Park has been going on for over a year. She was one of the builders of the party and she won the presidency with its support. Though it tried to separate itself from Park, former President Lee Myung-bak emerged as a new obstacle.
June 13 is local elections day. In order to keep the status quo, the LKP has to sharpen its attacks. But will that really change voters’ minds? LKP Chairman Hong Joon-pyo is making extreme and sensational remarks, one after another, but public reception is lukewarm.
Politics are about votes. Politicians need justification to ask for votes. But the LKP seems to have no clear justification. It is just full of talk. It has no closure for the past, no leadership for the present and no vision for the future. In other words, it has no dream. It’s hopeless.
In fact, being the main opposition party is great. Only a limited number of people from a ruling party are given top government posts. Some politicians even joke that it is actually better to be an opposition lawmaker who holds no responsibility. But the reason for a political party’s existence is to win elections and govern the country. A party with no will to govern will be abandoned by the people. The voters will not only give up on it in a presidential election, but also in general and local elections.
The local elections are approaching quickly, but the LKP must complete what it has to do. Although it experienced impeachment, it is just talking about liquidating the past, not acting. It is true that closure is hard. But it is also the beginning of everything. The LKP, however, is indifferent. If the ruling party of the past is not responsible, is it holding the people responsible?
Park stirred the rage of the entire country. She ran the government with her secret confidante who holds no public office. A senior secretary of the Blue House acted as Choi Soon-sil’s butler. Choi used presidential secretaries as if they were her private aides and influenced public servants’ appointments. Choi influenced the college admission process for her daughter and extorted money from conglomerates. Park may not be aware of all those wrongdoings, but she has no excuse for her incompetence.
Former President Lee’s past is also a serious issue. The ongoing prosecution’s investigations show that all allegations were about private gains. It doesn’t matter if DAS, an auto parts maker, is actually owned by Lee or his brother. If it collected investments from a failed venture and made a conglomerate pay its legal fees in a lawsuit to retrieve the money, Lee clearly abused his power for private gain.
The Grand National Party, the predecessor of the LKP, once stood on the brink of collapse after an illegal political funding scandal. But at least it collected political funds. It was not about private gain.
When Lee purchased land in Naegok-dong, southern Seoul, at the end of his presidency in order to build a retirement home, he made the government purchase nearby land for security. And yet, an official of the presidential security service took all the responsibility.
If Lee actually sold a presidential pardon, this means he sold the law and order of the country for private gain. He is no different from greedy officials of the medieval period who put innocent people in jails to sell indulgences later.
Of course, the truth has not yet been revealed. Lee’s press conference on Jan. 17 does not reveal the truth. “It is a political retaliation,” he said of the investigations. “Ask me directly,” he also said. But he did not speak about the allegations. His aides are also only talking about the legal ownership of DAS. It is an intelligent response for a criminal suspect, but an undignified response for a former president.
The conservatives of this nation need hope. They can only rebound when they have hope. They need a vision of the future. They need a dream. To this end, they must rebuild the LKP, because supporters can restore their pride, feel confident and have power through the words and behavior of their leader.
A person who has lingering affection for money is better served by not pursuing power. Politics is like a dream. And politicians must give up everything to achieve their vision of that dream.
During the course of her impeachment, Park failed to seize several important opportunities to save her presidency. She made the worst choice at every juncture. She fueled the situation.
Lee may think he has nothing to lose anymore. If he were just an ordinary criminal suspect, his actions would be justifiable. But he is no ordinary suspect. He is a former president. If he wants to protect his honor and the future of conservatives, he must come clean before the people before it is too late. If the charges are not true, he must give a comprehensible explanation to allow supporters to at least to protect their pride.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 12, Page 31
*The author is a columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.