Last chance for the LKPFour-term lawmaker Na Kyung-won, 55, has been elected the floor leader of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP). She beat her three-term peer Kim Hack-yong by 33 votes in a poll underscoring the still-prevalent factional division based on the ties with ousted President Park Geun-hye. Other contestants bowed out of the race, complaining of polarized factional divisions. Na — who was fielded by the faction disgraced by Park’s downfall — has a lot on her shoulders. She must be able to revive the conservative voice to balance the leftist agenda of the liberal government, while simultaneously patching up the party’s fissures that widened during the race.
The LKP still has a lofty place in the legislature, holding 112 seats in the 300-member National Assembly. But the party has long been forgotten by the public as its role has hardly been noticeable over the last 18 months. Its approval rating rose slightly to 10 percent, but can hardly be a match for President Moon Jae-in’s rating, which is now slightly below 50 percent. Despite the waning popularity of the president and the ruling Democratic Party, few regard the LKP as a viable alternative. The LKP has maintained its opposition to government agendas, yet has failed to present better options. When its interests in salaries, constituencies and electorate were at risk, the party struck deals with the ruling party.
Na has responsibility to carry out a full makeover of the dinosaur party which is still spoiled and self-serving despite its shameful loss of governing power due to presidential impeachment. She must endeavor to restore the dignity of a conservative and mainstream party with competitive and productive policy agenda. Opposition for opposition’s sake cannot be a solution: it must stay critical and assertive, yet cooperate with the ruling party and government when necessary to regain public support.
A five-term president’s popularity is bound to taper off. But merely waiting for its time won’t save the LKP. In its current poor state, it will be unable to win the next election regardless of the ruling party’s increasing public disapproval rating. Na must do all she can with the determination that this may be the party’s last chance.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 12, Page 34