Saving the conservatives
*The author is a senior columnist at the JoongAng Ilbo.
The Liberty Korea Party (LKP) has been declared dead. None of the prescriptions and treatments sought from inside and outside can revive the dead. No panacea or the best surgeon can revive a party whose life has long been sucked out. Even a miracle worker would be of no use. The party must immediately stop trying to revive the corpse and bury it. That is the only way for the Korean conservative movement to start anew.
It talks of dissolving its central headquarters, changing its name, streamlining the headquarters and moving to cheaper and reduced offices. It suggests forming an emergency committee and recruiting reform-minded people from outside. But all the recycled ideas and materials won’t do a thing. They didn’t work in the past and won’t in the future. The faction still loyal to the disgraced and imprisoned president Park Geun-hye wrangle incessantly. Unsurprisingly, the embattled party is getting nowhere even after a crushing defeat in the June 13 local elections.
The LKP is a cooking pot that should have been thrown in the trash bin long ago. Yet members do not part with it because of the power the party still holds in nominating and electing lawmakers. But there is no future in the party unless the pot is crushed for good.
The party could easily find a solution if it just thinks outside the box. The surviving pieces could later be molded into a new form once the pot no longer exists. Members should remove the party badge that still wields power on the floor as the largest opposition faction and compete to prove themselves as independent representatives for the year and nine months left in their terms. They can realign into a new conservative front to run in the next general election.
Those no longer fit should retire from politics. The nasty outbursts from former party head Hong Joon-pyo could actually be a good guideline on who should be shown the door. Before stepping down as head of the party, Hong listed nine types that should be ousted from the party. They included someone who thinks a lawmaker’s title is an addition to their credentials; someone who led a scandalous personal life; someone who aspires to travel around the world on public money; someone with a character problem; and someone who extends political life solely through credentials and face, to name a few. Lawmakers should look at themselves in the mirror and ask if they fit into any one of the descriptions. If anyone honestly thinks he or she lacks the ability or character to serve the people, they should retire from politics or declare they will no longer run in elections.
Upon disbanding the party, they should donate whatever is left in the party bank account to society or the government in atonement for failing the people after giving out severance pay to their office staff. They should have the decency to reserve some of the assets for independent players who will be on their own to finish their terms. The party must create an online space for surviving members to appeal to voters by posting their platforms, activities in the legislature and constituencies.
The website should upload platforms and individual thoughts on North Korea, foreign and security affairs, economic policies, social welfare and labor affairs as well as culture, the environment, women and children’s rights. The lawmakers should post their stance on all public policies, votes on bills in standing committees and general sessions, volunteering and other activities, specialty areas and commitments to constituencies. The individual lawmakers can contribute to the party’s study clubs or online communities of political associations, and have them rate their monthly activities.
To ensure balance and competition in the political landscape, worthy lawmakers must be saved. The independent survivors from the LKP can make future choices for voters easier through the online site and bring challenges to other lawmakers in the mainstream.
Political parties in Europe have sprouted from the Net society. Gone are the days when politicians need brick-and-mortar spaces to act. Many can pitch themselves and practice politics through the web and app platforms. Humbled survivors should use their mobile and internet base to court young blood and muster conservative forces.
Ruling party chairwoman Choo Mi-ae brazenly held a spectacle of a wedding for her daughter, a spectacle that included showing off a wreath from the president. The scene epitomized the ruling party’s arrogance after winning a landslide victory in recent local elections.
The Korean conservatives must be restructured and start anew by suggesting solutions to the troubled economy and security front. The saying — “Go into a battle determined to die, and you will survive” — cannot be better advice for the troubled LKP.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 3, Page 31