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Reform is the answer

June 15,2018
The leadership of opposition parties, including the Liberty Korea Party (LKP), resigned after taking responsibility for their crushing defeat in the June 13 local elections. They deserve it. At this juncture, opposition leaders must consider stepping back from the frontlines of politics. LKP leader Hong Joon-pyo was even shunned by his party’s candidates when he tried to make stump speeches to support them. This phenomenon is unprecedented in Korea. In the minor opposition Bareunmirae Party, Chairman Yoo Seong-min and former leader Ahn Cheol-soo were engaged in a tense tug of war over whom to nominate for the local elections to pick mayors, governors and councilmen across the country.

But the opposition camp still confronts a plethora of challenges for their long-awaited reform and revamp. The election debacle cannot entirely be attributed to their ill-fated leadership as it is also linked to a critical lack of soul searching for their rebirth. To rehabilitate them, they must stand united. Nevertheless, all factions are bent on attacking one another and keeping their vested interests. The Bareunmirae Party is no exception. Despite its proclaimed image as a new conservative party, it can hardly distinguish itself from the LKP.

The opposition parties simply resorted to gathering votes with slogans opposing President Moon Jae-in’s policy direction instead of presenting reliable policy alternatives. They chose old faces for the election battle rather than injecting new blood. Even when surveys safely predicted their overwhelming defeat, they simply brushed it off, saying the polls intentionally distorted reality. The public could not perceive any differences from the incompetent, irresponsible and laid-back presidency of Park Geun-hye. The voters can hardly sympathize with them even after their demise.

A dramatic fall of the conservative opposition would be a disaster for South Korea’s politics. A healthy democracy can be sustained — and prosper — only when it is backed by two wings: the right and left. Also, democracy can only thrive when there are appropriate checks and balances among the administrative, legislative and judicial branches. The ruling party, the Blue House and the government can only be alerted when they have a strong and healthy opposition.

Resuscitation of conservatism can start with thorough self-reflection and sacrifice. Above all, they must totally abandon their misled beliefs. Former President Park, who notably led corrupt conservatism, was impeached by the people. The opposition camp must sort out members of the establishment who still resist reforms and replace them with young and talented people armed with robust conservative values. Only then can the opposition be born again as a trustworthy political force.

Voters handed down a stern verdict. Unless the opposition parties renew their worn-out ideologies to meet the demands of the times, invite new faces and pursue a reformist path, they cannot gain public support. Without painstaking efforts toward transformation, the public will immediately turn away from them.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 15, Page 30