Hwang must tame the angerThe rage from the conservatives against the Moon Jae-in administration has sent the Liberty Korea Party (LKP) further right, putting the former prime minister under ousted President Park Geun-hye at the helm of the party. Hwang Kyo-ahn was elected as the new chairman at the LKP convention, winning a sweeping 50.3 percent of the vote.
When counting the 18.9 percent of the votes for Kim Jin-tae, a loyalist to former President Park, the election result was a victory for the ultra-right force. Hwang was a survivor of the fallen Park administration, serving as the justice minister and prime minister, and was lucky to have left the office with grace as the acting head of state on behalf of the impeached president. He took command of the main opposition party just 43 days after he joined the party.
The party demanded of reforms to keep abreast of times but has instead turned decisively to the right. Hwang, during the race for chairmanship, advocated for Park, claiming there was no proof that she had received bribes from companies. He also challenged the criminal prosecution of Park by claiming the criminal process started before the Constitutional Court delivered its verdict.
Oh Se-hoon, former Seoul mayor, who had called for the party to go past Park by acknowledging her impeachment, had been way ahead of Hwang in public polls, but lost to Hwang at the party convention. The results underscore the extent of conservative anger against the Moon Jae-in administration.
This resurgent far-right identity could hurt the LPK in the general elections and Hwang in his bid for the presidency. The differences over impeachment also could hamper party unity. Hwang, who had pledged to unite the conservatives, must untangle this knot.
Extremes can lead to further extremities. Historian Im Ji-hyun in his book “Hostile Accomplices” argued that rivals who use animosity against each another to strengthen their position and justify their actions become “partners in the crime of hostility.” U.S. President George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the 9/11 terrorist attack, capitalized on the hostility for one another. The beneficiary of their antagonism was Taliban extremism, not the American or Islamic people, Im claimed. There are many similar examples in Korean political history.
Hwang has two choices ahead of him. He must choose the far right or the bigger path of united conservatives. He may have won over the smaller tribe. But the bigger world outside the party is enraged for different reasons. He must become more skilled to train his tribe. He must tame the anger within. Pythagoras once said, “Anger begins in folly, and ends in repentance.”
JoongAng Ilbo, March 1, Page 30