The LKP must reform itselfFormer Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, who served as acting president in 2017 after President Park Geun-hye was impeached, was elected to head the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) until the 2020 parliamentary elections. Five members on the executive panel responsible for leading the conservative party until the next election also were elected during the convention on Wednesday, ending the party’s seven-month leadership vacuum. “I will stand at the forefront to make a strong nation placing people’s happiness first,” Hwang said in his acceptance speech. He vowed to achieve unity of the conservatives.
The LKP’s party convention was held amid questions about its viability following a series of major and fatal setbacks — impeachment of its president and defeat in 2017 presidential race and 2018 local elections. Without carving out a new identity, it will become a zombie party. The campaign, however, dashed any remaining hopes for the party. It not only failed to show any will for reform, but gave rise to the ultra-right and pro-Park force who caused uproar with their controversial remarks about the May 18 Gwangju Democratization Movement and Park’s impeachment and trial.
The new leadership under Hwang has to be quick with its efforts to restore public confidence. It must build a new identity as a reform-eyed conservative party. Hwang is partly at fault for stoking the rightist wave in the party. He indicated that he may not believe in the validity of the tablet PC from Park’s friend Choi Soon-sil, which led to the arrest of the president and Choi as well as a number of people under the former administration. What was wrong must be apologized for and fixed. Hwang lagged behind former Mayor Oh Se-hoon by a stretch (37.7 percent against 50.2 percent) in public polls. The party and public’s sentiment differed. The people face pain from some of the economic and public policies under the liberal government. The party, which has 113 seats, was unable to check the government’s bullheaded ways. Its countermeasures and criticisms were mostly politically motivated and did not offer feasible solutions for the future. Hwang must shake the party out of complacency so it can pose a formidable challenge to the ruling term.
Hwang ascended to the leadership of the main opposition party just 43 days after he joined the party. He promised to triumph in the upcoming election to win back power. But without a radical makeover, the party has no chance.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 28, Page 30