Departing from the pastThe opposition United Future Party (UFP) has changed its name to the People’s Power Party (PPP) temporarily, which will likely be approved in a national committee meeting on Wednesday. That’s seven months after the main opposition party switched its name from the Liberty Korea Party (LKP) to the UFP in February after merging with the New Conservative Party, a spin-off from the LKP. Though a final decision has yet to be made, a senior UFP official expressed hopes for a “genuine reinvention” of the embattled party, saying, “People’s Power refers to power from the people, power to be exercised for the people and power to unite the people.”
Altering a party’s name translates into a determination to separate itself from its past. The UFP suffered a series of crushing defeats in the 2016 parliamentary elections, the 2017 presidential election, the 2018 local elections and most recently, the 2020 legislative elections. The opposition lost big time. Despite its fervent campaigns to turn the situation around since the impeachment — and ousting in 2017 — of President Park Geun-hye for abuse of power and corruption, the conservative party was not able to reinvent itself mostly due to its longstanding connections to extreme rightist groups which had been increasingly shunned by the public.
Can a name change prove effective in reforming the conservative party? The outlook is brighter than ever. Since Kim Chong-in, a seasoned strategist, took the helm of the troubled party in May, the UFP has drastically changed course. For instance, it championed the introduction of a “basic income” — a concept popular among liberals and still the subject of heated debate — and included “economic democracy” in its platform. Kim even knelt before the altar of the May 18 Democracy Movement in Gwangju, a home to progressivism in Korea.
The opposition party’s new name — People’s Power Party — reflects a resolution to extend its spectrum and broaden its support base. If so, the party must prove its ideals through action. If it fails to reform itself sincerely, it cannot expect any victory in future elections. After an overwhelming defeat in the April 15 parliamentary elections, members of the UFP vowed to “depart with the past we are used to — and move toward a new future.” They only need to put that very promise into action.
The UFP must transform itself to help develop the future of Korean politics as a whole. Unless the main opposition plays its due role, it cannot put the brakes on the ruling party’s domineering approaches to governing the nation. We hope the UFP departs from its tainted past once and for all and in a way convincing to the average voter.