The UFP must changeMain opposition United Future Party (UFP) officials went into emergency leadership mode under Kim Chong-in. The leadership has stayed vacant due to a dispute over accountability for the sweeping defeat in the April 15 election. The party accepted Kim’s leadership until the by-elections set for April next year. The main opposition finally got its act together before the new National Assembly opened Monday.
Kim vowed to transform the conservative party to a “progressive” one. It would “lead the way” in policy proposals. He expressed a determination to draw radical changes in ideology, direction, policy designs and appointments in the conservative party. In last week’s meeting on reorganization, he stressed the times have changed, making the talk of conservative and rightist meaningless. “We cannot persuade through ideological logic,” he said. He vowed to devise stunning reform ideas like the “economic democratization” platform he had designed during Park Geun-hye’s 2012 campaign.
Kim has formed an economic reform committee. The focus will be on making jobs for the young and female population. Targeting the economy and jobs are positive signs of change in the party stigmatized as a group of the old school.
The emergency committee included young and female lawmakers and named representatives from the capital as secretary general and spokeswoman. Song Un-seok, former vice minister for the economy, was recruited as Kim’s chief secretary. The leadership organization is a sharp change from the past that mostly was comprised of multi-term lawmakers and those from southern provincial areas.
The conservative party has lost big in the April 15 parliamentary elections because it adhered to its past ideology and ways. It lost public support because it opposed without any alternative solution and lacked empathy with the socially weak. Its seats shriveled to 103, mostly representing the Yeongnam region.
Kim’s emergency leadership will succeed only when the party divorces from past ways and reestablishes its identity. It has set foot in the right direction by seeking an engaging economy.
But actions are more important than words. The past emergency leaderships all failed because their actions were not followed up with meaningful changes in the face of resistance from the mainstream conservative members. People will be watching whether the party can really turn “more progressive.”